The International Labour Organization was established in 1919 by Part XIII of the Versailles Peace Treaty. It stemmed from nineteenth-century labour and social movements with their demands for social justice and higher living standards for the world’s working people. The ILO, originally associated with the League of Nations, in 1946 became the first affiliated specialised agency of the United Nations.

It has a three-fold structure: representatives of the workers and of the employers have an equal voice with those of governments in formulating its policies.

ILO’s main objectives have always been the improvement of working and living conditions with the aim of establishing a comprehensive code of law and practice. ILO’s conventions and recommendations establish standards and contain guidelines on child labour, protection of women workers, hours of work, rest and paid holidays, labour inspection, occupational health and safety, protection of migrant workers, vocational training, social security protection and promotion of full employment.

They also cover issues concerning basic human rights, such as freedom of association, the abolition of forced labour, the elimination of discrimination in employment, and the promotion of full employment. ILO’s conventions and recommendations act as a stimulus, as well as a model, for national legislation and for its practical application in member countries.

A second major task of ILO is technical cooperation to assist developing nations carried out in association with the United Nations Development Programme and with other UN specialised agencies.

The standard-setting task is bolstered by research, training, education, and publications programmes. The ILO is a major source of publications and documentation on labour and social matters. It established two specialised educational institutions: in 1960, the International Institute for Labour Studies in Geneva, specialising in higher education and research on social and labour policy, and the International Centre for Advanced Technical and Vocational Training in Turin.

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