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The United Nations Economic and Social Council has given a General Comment that defines "decent work" and requires satisfaction of Article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: decent work is employment that "respects the fundamental rights of the human person as well as the rights of workers in terms of conditions of work safety and remuneration. ... respect for the physical and mental integrity of the worker in the exercise of his/her employment."
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), decent work involves opportunities for work that are productive and deliver a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.
The ILO is developing an agenda for the community of work, represented by its tripartite constituents, to mobilize their considerable resources to create those opportunities and to help reduce and eradicate poverty.
The ILO Decent Work Agenda is the balanced and integrated programmatic approach to pursue the objectives of full and productive employment and decent work for all at global, regional, national, sectoral and local levels. It has four pillars: standards and rights at work, employment creation and enterprise development, social protection and social dialogue.
Although few disagree with the Decent Work Agenda in principle, actually achieving Decent Work poses challenges and controversies. In Africa, for example, informal employment is the norm, while well-paying jobs that offer social-protection benefits are the exception. The Decent Work Agenda requires national and international actors to commit to the objective of creating quality jobs globally and to pursue cooperative solutions to this challenge. However, governments struggle to convince their publics that development and job creation abroad is imperative to prosperity and employment at home. Some governments also face the temptation to close markets and lower labor standards to remain competitive in a world economy that is blamed for depressing wages and working conditions.
Various actors can affect the provision of Decent Work, although existing conditions and incentives do not always lend themselves to advancing the Decent Work Agenda. To illustrate:
October 7, is the World Day for Decent Work. During that day trade unions, union federations and other workers associations develop their actions to promote the idea of Decent Work. Actions vary from street demonstrations to music events or conferences held in many countries.
Five organizations, Solidar, ITUC, ETUC, Social Alert International and the Global Progressive Forum, launched the Decent Work, Decent Life campaign at the World Social Forum in Nairobi in January 2007, and has since then worked in an alliance to promote decent work for decent life as solution to poverty. The idea to run a Campaign on Decent Work was conceived at the World Social Forum, 2005, in Porto Alegre. The Campaign targets young people, trade union activists, NGOs and decision makers in developed and developing countries.
In November 2007, decision makers from European governments and institutions signed the Call to Action of the Decent Work, Decent Life Campaign adding up to the recognition of the Decent Work Agenda. "There is also a growing interest on the part of the EU and international civil society in decent work, as illustrated for instance by: the launch of the Decent Work/Decent Life [Campaign]...".
The Decent Work, Decent Life for Women Campaign is a two years campaign launched on International Women's Day 2008 (March 8) by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Global union federations (GUF). The campaign aims to advocate decent work for women and gender equality in labour policies and agreements and to seek gender equality in trade union structures, policies and activities. The second objective aims at increasing number of women members in trade unions and women in elected positions.
The Campaign's necessity stems from multiple forms of discrimination in both policy and practice on a daily basis women are facing such as the gender pay gap, the lack of maternity protection and the higher unemployment rates among women.
At the moment 81 national centers in 56 countries participate with various events in this Campaign.
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