Employment and Human Rights: The International Dimension

Employment and Human Rights: The International Dimension

Employment and Human Rights: The International Dimension

Employment and Human Rights: The International Dimension


In Employment and Human Rights: The International Dimension, Richard Lewis Siegel discusses the historical evolution of the right to employment as well as regional and global efforts to achieve full employment. In the first section of the book, he examines a wealth of material, from English radical pamphlets of the seventeenth century to the recent debates at the United Nations and the International Labor Organization, placing intellectual history in the broadest possible economic, political, and social contexts.

In the second section, Siegel examines global and regional efforts in the present century intended to further the implementation of the right to employment. He traces the development of international cooperation and examines the reasons for the limited accomplishments, including a lack of consensus about the effectiveness of public policies; the politicization and strongly ideological nature of the international debates; and the turf and policy struggles within and among the highly influential intergovernmental organizations and national governments.


Much as horrendous war casualties have mocked periodic talk of peace in our time, record levels of unemployment have repeatedly accompanied ringing national and international endorsements of full employment and the right to work during the twentieth century. Unemployment continues to rival inflation as a great socioeconomic scourge of the industrialized and developing world, and can be compared with poverty and disease as a primary source of distress in many developing countries.

The continuing attraction of the right to work and the emergence of full employment goals and policies in the present century are discussed in this chapter. While both the right to work and full employment concepts retain to this day aspects of their utopian intellectual and historical origins, they have contributed to the generation of useful public policies as well as to disillusionment.

The historical and theoretical developments described in the previous chapter reflect early efforts to respond to the social dislocations of the accelerating industrial revolution. Proponents of various ideologies often came to differ largely in degree in their readiness to adopt old and new measures for the alleviation of poverty, the improvement of factory conditions, and the provision of increased work opportunities. Even as socialists of various stripes struggled to offer programs relevant to capitalist societies, various conservatives and liberals advocated measures that could be characterized at least in part as paternalistic humanitarianism.

The momentum for prescribing the right to employment and advocating full employment goals ebbed and flowed several times in the . . .

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