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Promoting decent work for all

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Promoting decent work for all

The European Union (EU) plays an active role in strengthening the social dimension of globalisation. It promotes its development model at international level, namely the combination of economic competitiveness and social justice.


Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 24 May 2006 – Promoting decent work for all – the EU contribution to the implementation of the decent work agenda in the world [COM(2006) 249 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Decent working conditions contribute to development, good governance and economic performance. For many emerging and developing countries, globalisation and economic growth do not result in improvements in social conditions or respect for human rights or a reduction in poverty.

This Communication proposes political guidelines to strengthen the EU contribution to the decent work agenda of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). It champions a global approach in order to act both on the defence of fundamental social rights and on the conditions of economic and social development. This strategy should be adapted to the situation of each country.

Acting through external policies

Enlargement policy and the pre-accession strategy make it possible to strengthen:

  • trade union freedom, collective bargaining and the capacity of trade unions;
  • labour administration, especially labour inspectorates and social protection;
  • health and safety at work.

Neighbourhood policy is a gradual process which involves in particular:

  • commitments in the area of fundamental social rights;
  • regular political dialogue with the EU;
  • the integration of decent work in the cooperation instruments and cooperation between partner countries and EU agencies.

The EU promotes decent work and social dialogue as part of its regional and bilateral relations. These issues have been integrated into the cooperation agreements with Latin America, the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) and India. They are part of political discussions with Asian countries, especially the Asia-Europe discussions (ASEM).

In the context of development cooperation, the European Consensus on Development identifies decent work as a priority. The European programmes support the following in particular:

  • integrating decent work into development strategies and strategies to combat poverty;
  • the participation of the social partners and civil society;
  • improving the capacity of the authorities and civil society;
  • budgetary support and social adjustment for countries involved in trade liberalisation;
  • development of small and medium-sized enterprises;
  • cooperation of partners and the international and regional organisations concerned.

European external trade policy contributes to sustainable development. The new Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) enables the EU to promote fundamental social rights. Future bilateral or multilateral trade negotiations should take account of:

  • the GSP+ for good governance and sustainable development;
  • the assessment of the impact of opening trade;
  • the mobilisation of European external aid policies and instruments;
  • the interaction between trade, social rights and employment;
  • the promotion of cooperation between the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the ILO.

International governance

International organisations and international financial institutions should take account of existing connections between decent work and economic migration, and of the level of trade, economic growth and investment.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)

Enterprises have a role which complements legislation, collective bargaining and control of working conditions. The drafting of codes of conduct and CSR instruments should be encouraged. They should be based on standards recognised at international level.


Commission working document – Report on the EU contribution to the promotion of decent work in the world [SEC(2008) 2184 final – Not published in the Official Journal]. Since 2006, European institutions have mobilised on the issue of decent work and progress has been made at global level. In particular, the processes of ratification and development of ILO conventions have made progress. A number of challenges lie ahead:

  • recognition of decent work as a priority of international development and poverty reduction objectives;
  • labour market transition to a low carbon economy;
  • applying the ILO conventions and improving labour market governance, despite the importance of the informal economy in most of the emerging or developing countries.

Communication from the Commission to the European Council - Strategic report on the renewed Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs: launching the new cycle (2008-2010) – Keeping up the pace of change [COM(2007) 803 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Joint declaration by the Council and the representatives of the governments of the Member States meeting within the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission on the development policy of the European Union entitled “The European Consensus on Development [Official Journal C 46 of 24.2.2006].

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - The Social Dimension of Globalisation - The EU’s policy contribution on extending the benefits to all [COM(2004) 383 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Renewed social agenda: Opportunities, access and solidarity in 21st century Europe [COM(2008) 412 final - Not published in the Official Journal].Communication from the Commission on the Social Agenda [COM(2005) 33 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

See also

Last updated: 10.12.2009