International Labour Organization: A Glimpse


ILO stands for International Labour Organisation (ILO) and is the most important organization at the world level, working for the workers’ benefit throughout the world. It was established in the year 1919. It is a tripartite body consisting of representatives of the Government, Employer, workers. It functions democratically by taking an interest in protecting the working class throughout the world. It is also working at the international level as a ‘saviour of workers’, ‘protector of poor’ and it is a beacon light for the change of social justice and social security. The organization examines each and every problem of the workers pertaining to each member country and thoroughly discusses the tripartite body of all the countries. 

The I.L.O passes Conventions and Recommendations on different subjects like Social Security, Basic Human Rights, Welfare Measures, and Collective Bargaining. Based on the Conventions and Recommendations of I.L.O., every country incorporates its recommendations and suggestions in its respective laws.

The concept of Socialism as a potential and political force emerged due to the increasing development of capitalism, as an answer and defense to it. In the beginning, these social thoughts were considered Utopian, and they came to be regarded as Utopian Socialism expanded mainly in England, France, and the United States. There was an industrial revolution by which many industries were established; consequently, social and economic evils have spread, so socialism has become essential. In the United Kingdom, as a consequence because of industrialization, many problems raised, and labour exploitation emerged. 

The United Kingdom was the first country to be industrialized. Intending to protect from the exploitation of the employers the employees tried to organize and unionize their associations. However, industrial countries such as the United Kingdom followed by the United States of America and other industrial countries made attempts to restrict the Trade Union Movement bypassing anti combination laws. The United Kingdom passed the Anti-Combination Act of 1899, 1900 and the USA enacted the Sherman and Clayton Acts, which were enforced against the workers to discourage trade unions’ formation. All these exploitations by the employers compelled the sufferers to take refuse in the utopian doctrines. Robert Owen being an employer, took an interest in the welfare of the workmen. Even during the period of the shutdown of his mill, he paid full wages to the workers. 

What is International Labour Organization

I.L.O is a UN agency dealing with labour issues, particularly international labour standards, social protection, and work opportunities for all. It strives to serve as a uniting force between governments, businesses, and workers to “promote decent work throughout the world”. It emphasizes workers’ need to enjoy”conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity” throughout their employment. 

The principles that gave birth to the I.L.O

The following are the principles that gave birth to the I.L.O, and these following principles were incorporated in Part-XIII of the Treaty Versailles:

  • Universal peace can be established only if it is based on social justice and social justice implies the working of the equitable conditions of labour.
  • Regulation of labour conditions must be accomplished internationally because the failure of any nation to adopt human conditions for labour is an obstacle in the way of the other nations which desire to improve the conditions of labour in their own countries. 

Examples which substantiate the improving conditions of labour are indicated as below:-

  • Establishment of maximum working days and week.
  • Prevention of unemployment.
  • Provision of an adequate living wage.
  • Protection of labour against sickness, disease, and injury arising out of his employment.
  • Protection of children women, and young persons.
  • Provision for odd-age.

To achieve the objectives mentioned above and implement these principles, the Peace Treaty prescribed that a permanent organization should be established, and thus, the I.L.O came into existence in the year 1919.  Therefore, article 1 of the I.L.O Constitution stipulated that “A permanent organization is hereby established for the promotion of the objectives set forth in the preamble to this constitution”. The I.L.O constitution’s preamble, which was initially being supplemented by the Peace Treaty of 1919 and later by the Philadelphia Declaration of 1944 envisages International Labour Organisation’s objectives. 

Aims of International Labour Organization

The principle aim of the I.L.O is the welfare of labour as reaffirmed by the Philadelphia Conference of 1944 under the Philadelphia Declaration, on which the I.L.O. is based. 

  • Labour is not a commodity
  • Freedom of expression and association are essential to sustained progress
  • Poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere; and 
  • The war against want requires to be carried on with unrelenting vigor within each nation, and by continuous and concerted international effort in which the representatives of workers and employers, employing equal status with those of governments, join with them in free discussion and democratic decision with a view to the promotion of the common welfare.

Objectives of International Labour Organization

The I.L.O’s objectives are enunciated in the preamble to its Constitution, supplemented by Article 427 of the Peace Treaty of Versailles, 1919; as well as by the Philadelphia Declaration of 1944. The Declaration of Philadelphia set 10 objectives, which the International Labour Organisation was to further promote among the world’s nations. The theme underlying these objectives is social justice. The objectives are as follows : 

  • Full employment and the revising of standards of living
  • The employment of workers in the occupation in which they can have the satisfaction of giving the fullest measure of their skill and make their contribution to the ordinary well being
  • The provision, as means to the attainment of this end, and adequate guarantees for all concerned, of facilities for training and the transfer of labour, including migration for employment and settlement. 
  • Policies regarding wages and earning forms and other conditions of work. Calculate to ensure a just share of the fruits of progress to all and a minimum living wage to all employed and need protection.
  • The effective recognition of the right of collective bargaining, the co-operation of management and labour in the continuous improvement of productive efficiency and the collaboration of workers and employers in social and economic measures.
  • The extension of social security measures to provide a basic income to all in need of such protection and comprehensive medical care, 
  • Adequate protection for the life and health of workers in all occupations. 
  • Provision for child welfare and maternity protection. 

Relationship between I.L.O. and India

India became a member of the I.L.O in the year 1919, which is from its inception. Though India had not won independence by that year i.e. 1919, it was admitted to the organization’s membership. However, its membership, of the League of Nations and the I.L.O had not gone unchallenged.

For it was argued that it would give an additional vote to the United Kingdom. The British Government gave an assurance that British India was democratically administered and upon this, India and China, Iran, Japan, and Thailand were few Asian countries to be admitted to the I.L.O membership of the 24 States. Out of 40 States represented, India was one that sent a full delegation to the first session of the International Labour Conference held in the year 1919 at Washington. 

It is to be mentioned here that the Indian delegation comprised of Government representatives, Sir Atul Chatterjee, and Sir Louis ker Sha. Employers delegate Sir Alexander Murry and working delegate Sri.N.M.Joshi. Thus, Indian Membership of the League of Nations and the International Labour Organization was indeed a first step in elevating assemblies’ status despite being a British Colony. 

The I.L.O and India have common aims, goals, and destiny as both of them are committed to world peace, freedom, and social justice. Both are striving for the socio-economic betterment of the long-suffering, long-forgotten people, the people who are underprivileged and undernourished with the fullest realization that any further delay would fatal for themselves and the whole world. 

Under International Labour Organization, 9 Conventions have been adopted in the field of Human Rights, 5 Conventions deal with the freedom of association, 2 related to the forced labour and one each deals with the equal pay for equal work and discrimination in the employment of these one Convention is related to non-metropolitan countries. With regard to India, it has ratified 5 conventions. India’s conventions did not ratify relate to freedom of association; one relates to the abolition of forced labour and the other right to organize collective bargaining.


The approach of India with regard to International Labour Standards has always been positive. The ILO instruments have provided guidelines and a useful framework for the evolution of legislative and administrative measures to protect and advance the interest of labour. To that extent, the influence of ILO Conventions as a standard for reference for labour legislation and practices in India, rather than as a legally binding norm, has been significant.
Ratification of a Convention imposes legally binding obligations on the country concerned and, therefore, India has been careful in ratifying Conventions. It has always been India’s practice that we ratify a Convention when we are fully satisfied that our laws and practices conform with the relevant ILO Convention. It is now considered that a better course of action is to proceed with progressive implementation of the standards, leave the formal ratification for consideration at a later stage when it becomes practicable. We have so far ratified 39 Conventions of the ILO, which is much better than the position obtaining in many other countries.   

This article is authored by Prathana Patel, student at GLS Law College, Ahmedabad.


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