Multi-Lateral Summaries > International Labour Organization (ILO)

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the UN specialized agency devoted to advancing opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security, and human dignity. Its main aims are to:

  • Promote and realize standards and fundamental principles and rights at work;
  • Create greater opportunities for women and men to secure decent employment and income;
  • Enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for all;
  • Strengthen tripartism and social dialogue in handling work-related issues.

In promoting social justice and internationally-recognized human and labour rights, the organization continues to pursue its founding mission, which was based on the premise that labour peace is essential to prosperity. Today, the ILO helps advance the creation of decent jobs and the kinds of economic and working conditions that give working people and business people a stake in lasting peace, prosperity, and progress.

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TCB-related programme

The ILO’s trade-related services promote an integrated approach to trade, employment and decent work, one that seeks to simultaneously enhance a country’s trade performance and create more, and better, jobs. The ILO seeks to enhance the capabilities of countries and social partners (governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations) to realize the opportunities for decent employment and income that may be created by trade and to limit social adjustment costs. It seeks to achieve this through actions at the international, regional and national levels.

At the international level, the ILO promotes dialogue between its own constituents - governments, trade unions and employers’ organizations - on the potential employment effects of trade policies and measures that maximize opportunities for employment and decent work. It also engages with other agencies to promote policy coherence between trade policies, on the one hand, and labour market policies, on the other. At the regional level, the ILO is involved in assisting regional institutions to assess the impact of trade integration on decent work, and to develop regional social policies on employment, skills development, the movement of people, labour standards, and other social goals.

At the national level, through the ILO’s Decent Work Country Programmes - national strategies designed to achieve the organization’s four strategic objectives - it is involved in:

  • Assessing the impact of trade policy on employment and working conditions;
  • Developing integrated sectoral strategies that seek to improve the export competitiveness of enterprises together with the number of jobs created and the conditions of work and employment;
  • Supporting social dialogue between trade unions, employers’ organizations and government to promote more effective and coherent trade and labour market policies;
  • Facilitating labour market preparedness for trade by providing assistance with the development of active labour market policies, and adequate regulatory frameworks and institutions to provide social protection;
  • Strengthening productive capabilities for trade preparedness;
  • Unlocking the potential of enterprises to create decent jobs that can help alleviate poor working conditions and create a route out of poverty by: providing market information; facilitating the development of clusters and the upgrading of enterprises in value chains; improving workplace practices and productive capabilities; assessing the policy and regulatory environment within which enterprises operate in order to create a supportive business environment; and building skills and knowledge as the engines of economic growth and social development, crucial to sustaining productivity and income-earning opportunities.

Through its training arm, the International Training Centre in Turin, the ILO provides training on the nexus of trade and labour markets. The proposed training aims at equipping ILO’s constituents (workers and employers organizations, ministries of labour) as well as trade negotiators and professionals from ministries of trade and regional economic organizations, with conceptual and analytical tools for the effective mainstreaming of decent employment in national and regional trade policy strategies.


EU, ITC, UN Cluster for Trade and Productive Capacity, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNIDO, UN VCD Group, WIPO, WTO

TCB activities in this guide


  • Working Party on the Social Dimension of Globalization (WPSDG)


  • Assessing and addressing the impact of trade policy on employment


  • Technical cooperation on labour laws


  • Development of the business environment
  • Skills for Trade and Economic Diversification (STED)
  • Value Chain Development
  • Workplace practices
  • Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises (SCORE)


  • South-South cooperation MoU
  • India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) commitment to South-South cooperation and the Decent Work Agenda
  • South-South cooperation partnership agreement with China
  • South-South cooperation new programme agreements


  • Local economic development (LED)

Example successful project

Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises (SCORE) is a practical training and in factory counselling programme to increase the productivity of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) while promoting respect for workers’ rights. The programme demonstrates best international practice in manufacturing and service sectors and helps SMEs to increase their trade capacity and participate in global supply chains.

SCORE is a modular training programme that focuses on developing cooperative relations in the workplace. Workers and managers participate together in two-day classroom training sessions on workplace cooperation, quality management, human resource management, and occupational health and safety. Local experts follow up on-site to help the enterprise implement what has been learned. SCORE also includes a training module on cleaner production, in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The ILO is assisting government agencies, training organizations, industry associations and trade unions in emerging economies in Africa, Asia and Latin America to offer SCORE training to enterprises.

Preliminary estimate of impact of SCORE Phase I

As of April 2012 (8-16 month before project end), the project has already achieved the following:

  • The project has built capacity in 19 institutions (government agencies, industry associations, training organizations) in seven countries to offer the SCORE training programme. These institutions have trained 190 SMEs representing more than 12.000 workers and conducted more than 500 consulting visits. More than 1369 managers and workers have jointly participated in classroom training.
  • Enterprise Improvement Teams in SMEs consisting of managers and workers are meeting on average 3.4 times to implement 8 jointly identified improvement projects per month. More than 50% of enterprises report cost-savings due to the training (from 300 to 15,000 USD within 2-3 months), 80% report reductions in defects (-10% on average), 42% report reductions in energy consumption (-2% KwH per production unit), absenteeism has decreased by 3.6%.
  • An independent mid-term evaluation concluded in June 2011 that “the SCORE programme is adding value to the participating SMEs. The programme is generally recognized as a good approach in supporting SMEs to become more sustainable and it contributes to the development of decent workplaces.”