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The human desire to seek decent employment and livelihoods is at the core of the migration-development nexus. Despite progress, decent work deficits remain alarmingly widespread. To put things into perspective:

  • Almost one in ten children are subject to child labour or 160 million children globally, a number that has risen for the first time in two decades
  • 28 million people are in situations of forced labour
  • More than 630 million workers worldwide — that is, almost one in five, or 19%, of all those employed — did not earn enough to lift themselves and their families out of extreme or moderate poverty
  • Each day 7,500 people die from unsafe and unhealthy working conditions
  • 74% of countries exclude workers from the right to establish and join a trade union, while 79% of countries violate the right to collective bargaining, and 64 countries deny or constrain freedom of speech and assembly
  • Hundreds of millions of people suffer from discrimination in the world of work because of their skin colour, ethnicity or social origin, religion or political beliefs, age, gender, sexual identity or orientation, disability or because of their HIV status

The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines decent work as “productive work for women and men in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity”. In general, work is considered as decent when:

  • it pays a fair income
  • it guarantees a secure form of employment and safe working conditions
  • it ensures equal opportunities and treatment for all
  • it includes social protection for the workers and their families
  • it offers prospects for personal development and encourages social integration
  • workers are free to express their concerns and to organise

Increasing employment and ensuring decent work for all are essential aspects of sustainable development. Quality employment and decent work conditions help reduce inequalities and poverty, and empower people, especially women, young people and the most vulnerable such as people with disabilities.

In Part 2 of this article, we will delve into what businesses can do to promote respect for labour rights and decent work for all workers.