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International Labour Organization: Report Issued on Non-Standard Jobs

(Nov. 21, 2016) The International Labour Organization (ILO) has issued a report on non-standard forms of employment, recommending that policies be changed. (Non-Standard Employment Around the World: Understanding Challenges, Shaping Prospects (Nov. 14, 2016), ILO website.) Non-standard employment includes temporary or part-time work, work obtained through agencies or sub-contractors, self-employment, and disguised employment relationships. (Press Release, ILO, Regulatory Reforms Are Needed to Improve the Quality of Non-Standard Jobs (Nov. 14, 2016).)

The ILO is concerned about the status and treatment of workers in non-standard forms of employment. While these work arrangements can give both employees and employers flexibility, the ILO fears that they will result in greater insecurity for workers and on average lower wages. (Id.) According to Deborah Greenfield, the Deputy Director-General for Policy of the ILO,

Non-standard forms of employment are not new, but they have become a more widespread feature of contemporary labour markets. We need to make sure that all jobs provide workers with adequate and stable earnings, protection from occupational hazards, social protection and the right to organize and bargain collectively, and that employees know the identity of their employer. (Id.)

The ILO has also argued that in some cases of non-standard employment, “there is evidence that workers have difficulty exercising their fundamental rights at work, or gaining access to social security benefits and on-the-job training. Injury rates are also higher … .” (Id.)

The ILO has found that the proportion of workers in non-standard jobs has been growing in recent decades. This is particularly true in Asia, where there has been an increase in the number of dispatched, agency sent, subcontracted, or outsourced workers. Contract labor made up 43.7% of the Indian manufacturing workforce in 2011-12; in the 1970s it was only a negligible proportion.  (Id.)

ILO Proposals

In order to address the problems posed by the number of people in non-standard work arrangements, the ILO report proposed both changes in regulations to fill existing gaps and promotion of efforts to support all workers. The issues to be regulated include:

  • insuring equality of treatment for all workers;
  • insuring freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining;
  • guaranteeing minimum hours of work and safeguards against demands for irregular or last-minute work times;
  • adding legislation and enforcement of existing regulations on classification of employment;
  • restricting the use of non-standard employment relationships as a means to decrease abuses; and
  • carefully assigning obligations and responsibilities when employment arrangements involve multiple parties (such as in sub-contracting situations). (Non-Standard Employment Around the World: Understanding Challenges, Shaping Prospects, supra, ch. 6.)

The report includes examples of regulations and policies in various countries for each of these issues (id.) and goes on to recommend in general that collective bargaining be strengthened, that social protections such as benefit programs be improved and made more flexible in rules on contributions to account for interruptions in employment, and that employment policies support the creation of jobs and accommodate employees’ needs for training and their family responsibilities. (Press Release, supra.)