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The International Labour Organization turns 100

Improving working conditions worldwide

This year the International Labour Organization (ILO) is celebrating the 100thanniversary of its founding. Its aim was and is to improve working conditions for people around the globe. Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Geneva to convey her congratulations in person. She declared, "We still need the engagement of the International Labour Organization today."

Angela Merkel at the lectern against a backdrop of flags The Chancellor underlined the importance of the ILO, which was celebrating its 100th birthday in Geneva Photo: Bundesregierung / Steins

The organisation has been working for one hundred years to improve working and living conditions worldwide. In that time it has achieved a great deal, including general standards for maternity leave, the right to establish trade unions and a minimum age for employment. "The economy must serve the people, not the people the economy." That was the central message of Angela Merkel’s speech.

The global achievements of the ILO demonstrate how important it is to act together, across national borders, if we are all to thrive. Germany shares the goals of the ILO, but the system of multilateral cooperation is in danger, Angela Merkel pointed out, and advocated compromise. That, she said, is part of international cooperation.   

Establishing minimum global standards

The ILO has always worked everywhere in the world at all times to improve the lot of workers – whether their workplace is a workbench or a computer. Even modern forms of work like crowd work need minimum global standards to protect the workforce. The Chancellor thus stressed, "Today we need the International Labour Organization every bit as much as we did when it was first founded 100 years ago."

Many people ask whether the ILO is able to address the new challenges of the modern working world. It has put in place an independent Global Commission on the Future of Work to find the right answers to these questions.

At the close of the 108th Session of the International Labour Conference on 21 June, member states intend to adopt a centenary statement enshrining strong guidelines on the future of work with social justice for all. Germany itself is currently elaborating an advanced training strategy.

ILO – strongly representing people worldwide

Alongside digitalisation, globalisation is a key issue for the ILO. In many places in the world workers today are still struggling to obtain their fundamental rights and social welfare cover. They still urgently need the robust support of the ILO. In her latest video podcast the Chancellor stressed, "We want social standards to apply for everybody in the world."

The world’s leading industrial nations benefit disproportionately from globalisation and the international division of labour, said Angela Merkel. They have a particular responsibility not only to ensure fair working conditions in their own countries, "but also to press for these elsewhere, right the way along global supply and value chains".

The ILO is the oldest of the United Nations specialised agencies. It main aims are to promote decent work, social protection and to strengthen social dialogue. It has 187 member states represented by governments, workers and employers. This three-pronged structure is unique within the UN system.

Jun 11, 2019