Globalization and Decent Work Policy: Reflections upon a New Legal Approach
Servais, Jean-Michel, International Labour Review
From the ongoing debate on the future of work, it is becoming increasingly clear that social policies and related legislation need adapting to more open and competitive markets and to more complex, segmented and technology-driven ways of organizing production and services. Indeed, that labour law needs remodelling to adjust to the "new economy" in the broadest sense of the term can hardly be disputed. It is no longer a question of whether, but how the remodelling process will take place.
The modernization of social and labour policies calls for reconsideration of the optimum balance to be struck between workers' protection, job creation and competitiveness - i.e. the balance between economic development and nationally or internationally recognized values and rights.
The primary goal of the ILO today is to promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. This is the main purpose of the Organization today. Decent work is the converging focus of all its four strategic objectives: the promotion of rights at work; employment; social protection; and social dialogue. It must guide its policies and define its international role in the near future (ILO, 1999, p. 3).
The concept of decent work thus embodies the expression of the ILO's resolve to bring together all the components of harmonious economic and social development, of which regulations for the protection of labour are a key feature.
The goal is not just the creation of jobs, but the creation of jobs of acceptable quality. The quantity of employment cannot be divorced from its quality. All societies have a notion of decent work, but the quality of employment can mean many things. It could relate to different forms of work, and also to different conditions of work, as well as feelings of value and satisfaction. The need today is to devise social and economic systems which ensure basic security and employment while remaining capable of adaptation to rapidly changing circumstances in a highly competitive global market (ILO, 1999, p. 4; see also ILO, 2003, pp. 77-80, 91-92 and 117-119).
Hence also the need to determine the most effective ways of implementing the chosen policy, i.e. how to translate the above policy mix into outcomes that will make a real difference in workers' daily lives. Not all options involve legislation. Indeed, the potential of approaches based on political agreements, economic measures, training and information, technical "standards" and practical guidelines should not be underestimated, though their effects do tend to be circumstantial. The legal approach, by contrast, presupposes a longer-term vision. It implies a decision to make policy more durable by grounding it in legislation and, if necessary, to resort to penalties - a distinctive feature of law.
The purpose of this article is to consider the most effective ways of legislating. Though the role of judicial decision-making in the concrete application of law will not be discussed in depth here, it should be borne in mind that the judiciary plays a key part in the implementation of social policy at the micro-economic level (Servais, 2002).
From the perspective of standard-setting, the aim of the ILO's decent work policy is to satisfy all the prerequisites for ensuring that labour regulations are actually applied. In this respect, the obstacles encountered typically stem from socio-economic resistance - a problem compounded by the difficulty of measuring the cost of applying labour standards.
The very concept of "decency" suggests possible responses to these concerns. To begin with, it implies the capability of women and men at work to practice solidarity instead of seeking mutual domination. The concept thus suggests dialogue, calling for the support of the social partners in the design, drafting and implementation of labour laws; after all, the …
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Publication information: Article title: Globalization and Decent Work Policy: Reflections upon a New Legal Approach. Contributors: Servais, Jean-Michel - Author. Journal title: International Labour Review. Volume: 143. Issue: 1/2 Publication date: January 1, 2004. Page number: 185+. © 2008 Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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