Labour Rights

Labour rights is a very broad issue; however, it can be boiled down to the protection and respect of human life in the workplace and the right to work itself. Some components of labour rights are the rights to job safety, collective bargaining, and equal pay for equal work.

Labour rights vary by country; however the International Labour Organization (ILO) provides universal standards and guidelines. The ILO, a part of the UN, aims to provide guidance and standards for labour practices around the world.

One labour issue that the ILO is making progress on is child labour. According to UNICEF ( an estimated 246 million children are working, and nearly three quarters of those children are working in hazardous places like mines, or working with dangerous tools like machinery and pesticides. A large number of child labourers are girls and are susceptible to sexual exploitation. While most everyone agrees that child labour cannot be condoned, the issue is complex. Impoverished families or parents who are unable to work depend on their children’s income source for survival. The cycle of poverty and its gendered implications must be adequately addressed so families can find other means to survive.

When it comes to labour rights for the general population, in many places around the world people have to work in sweatshops that have questionable labour policies in order to make a living. Defenders of sweatshops argue that without the factories, the workers wouldn’t have a job. Labour activists note that a major problem of sweatshops is the awful treatment of workers and the lack of opportunity. Workers deserve respect and safety from harm.

There are other labour rights issues that need global attention like bonded labour – people forced to work to pay off debts of ancestors. And human trafficking…Other issues include, but aren’t limited to, maternity rights, living wages, working time, gender equality, decent work, and of course, unionization. Freedom of association is essential because it allows people to discuss matters: whether they are political or social- and act on them as well. This issue is so important that it is "at the core of the ILO’s values.".