Address: 4 route des Morillons, 1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland
Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations
The ILO was established in 1919 and is the first and oldest specialised UN agency. It is the only UN agency that has a tripartite structure consisting of government representatives, employers, and workers, and aims to promote labour rights, including the right to decent work. The ILO also works towards better dialogue on work-related issues and supports adequate employment opportunities. It maintains over 20 economic sectors focused on industries such as health services, oil and gas production, and textiles. As part of its work, the ILO addresses many different topics including child labour, green jobs, and workplace health and safety.
Digital issues are present in a number of areas of the ILO’s work. One of these areas is the postal and telecommunication services sector encompasses activities related to the internet, in which the ILO works on assisting governments, employers, and workers to develop policies and programmes aimed at enhancing economic opportunities and improving working conditions. It pays particular attention to major trends in this sector such as deregulation, and privatisation and how they affect the labour force. More recently, the organisation has started addressing digitalisation through topics such as skills knowledge, employability, and the future of work.
Digital policy issues
The ILO has a world employment and social outlook platform that provides datasets on measures such as the global labour force, unemployment, and employment by sector. The organisation also has a development cooperation dashboard with data on labour-related policy areas. ILOSTAT (a portal to labour statistics) and the ILO Knowledge Portal(which offers access to country information and data on labour laws, standards, policies, and statistics) are other data resources the organisation makes available.
In recent years, the organisation has been looking into matters related to the potential of big data in areas such as monitoring changes in the world of work and devising evidence-based policies for the future of work. Several publications have been launched in this respect, with examples including The Feasibility of Using Big Data in Anticipating and Matching Skills Needs (2020) and Perspectives on Policy and Practice: Tapping into the Potential of Big Data for Skills Policy (2021).
Future of work
Perhaps the most visible digital issue in the ILO’s activities is the future of work. To address it, the ILO established the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work as part of its Future of Work Initiative. The Commission is composed of government, civil society, academia, and business association representatives. In 2019, the Commission published a landmark report titled Work for a Brighter Future that calls for a human-centred agenda for the future of work and explores the impacts of technological progress in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics and on issues such as the gender labour gap and the automation of work. That same year, the ILO issued the ILO Centenary Declaration that, among other things, calls for ‘full and productive employment and decent work’ in the context of the digital transformation of work, including platform work.
The ILO has published several other research documents and reports on the subject including Digital Labour Platforms and the Future of Work: Towards Decent Work in the Online World, which tackles working conditions on digital platforms and Global Employment Trends for Youth in 2020: Technology and the Future of Jobs, which covers inequalities in youth labour markets arising from digital transformation, as well as investment in young people’s skills and many other underlying questions.
Through the non-standard forms of employment topic, the ILO also explores the implications of digital labour platforms and working from home trends (e.g. teleworking).
The ILO, in line with the 2030 Agenda and more specifically sustainable development goal (SDG) 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) has created the Decent Work for Sustainable Development (DW4SD)ResourcePlatform that maps out the interplay between sustainable development and decent work. The platform provides guidance and working resources to ILO staff, development partners, UN country teams, and other stakeholders.
Capacity development is another digital-related issue addressed by the ILO. As part of its skills, knowledge, and employability initiatives, the ILO, together with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has developed the SKILL-UP programme that assists developing countries to build capacity and improve their skills systems in relation to digitalisation and technological innovation. Aside from providing training to help empower women with digital skills, the programme also develops digital tools such as skill trackers where surveys covering different aspects of skills development are collected in real-time.
In the framework of its innovation initiatives, the ILO has a Skills Innovation Facility, which focuses on identifying and testing innovative ideas and solutions to address current and future skills challenges. Moreover, the Skills Innovation Network provides a platform for innovators to collaborate and share experiences on developing innovations for skills development.
The ILO also has a Help Desk for Business on International Labour Standards that provides assistance to businesses on how to align their business operations with labour standards.
Privacy and data protection
In regard to privacy and data protection, the ILO has published a set of principles on the protection of workers’ personal data (2022), which explores trends, principles, and good practices related to the protection of personal data.
The International Training Centre, established by the ILO, provides online courses on a variety of labour issues.
The ILO also organises webinars and uses a number of social media accounts. Digital tools also available:
- ILO Knowledge Portal
- Portal to Labour Statistics ILOSTAT
- ILO Development Cooperation Dashboard
- World Employment and Social Outlook
Social media channels