Are there International Madates for Employment Creation?

            There are several international mandates for employment creation.  Two of the most influential mandates are Article 23 “The Right to Work” of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ILO employment policy convention, no 122 “promotion of full productive and freely chosen employment”.

            In comparison, the two mandates are not totally different. “The Right to Work” created in 1948, states:

“(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”

“The Right To Work” deals exclusively with ac­cess to work and focuses on the importance of the individual human person where everyone has a right to work, to free employment and to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. “The Right to Work” is not just applied to isolated beings but to a greater community. Therefore “The Right to Work” is created to outline individual rights but in the context of a larger society. You have the right to work in fair and safe conditions and to choose your job. You have the right to be paid enough for a decent standard of living, or to receive supplementary benefits. You also have the right to form or join trade unions to protect your interests.     

Society must afford all its members access to the opportunities for self-support and personal development that paid employment provides and support this entitelement. So there is a right to work that guarantees all individuals who are capable of working the opportunity to earn enough to support themselves and their families. 

The other is a right to income assistance for persons whose circumstances do not permit them to earn a livelihood through wage employment.The outline here is fairly vague and provides little detail. Perhaps one of the biggest holes in this mandate is that the very definition of work is never laid out. Whether or not “work” is envisaged to mean only wage labor or whether it can encompass self-employed individuals or imformal economic activities of indigenous groups. A definition of work should be essential before mandating a right to work.   Much like “The Right to Work”, ILO employment policy convention, no 122 “promotion of full productive and freely chosen employment” is a similar mandate. The mandates goal is to ensure:

            “ (a) There is work for all who are available for and seeking work; (b) Such work is as productive as possible; (c) There is freedom of choice of employment and the fullest possible opportunity for each worker to qualify for, and to use his skills and endowments in, a job for which he is well suited, irrespective of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.”

The mandate recognizes the same principles as “The Right to Work” but pushes the standards further. Like the Right to Work, the ILO also recognizes that everyone has the right to work, free choice of employment, just and favorable conditions of work and protections against unemployment but places these ideas of the work community in a wider framework of an international program for economic expansion on the basis of full, productive and freely chosen employment. And raise standards of living, provide an adequate living wage and to consider the bearing of economic financial policies upon employment policy in regards to “fundamental objectives that all human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity".                  

What makes this doctrine a bit different from “The Right to Work” is that the second part of the mandate outlines the nature of State obligation.

“The said policy shall take due account of the stage and level of economic development and the mutual relationships between employment objectives and other economic and social objectives, and shall be pursued by methods that are appropriate to national conditions and practices. Members of the ILO can  (a) Decide on and keep under review, within the framework of a coordinated economic and social policy, the measures to be adopted for attaining the objectives specified in article l; (b) Take such steps as may be needed, including when appropriate the establishment of programmes, for the application of these measures.”

            To apply these principles and commitments of the two instruments, governments should be legally required to respect the principles outlined. The mandates cannot simply be a advisory but a moral prerequisite for full participation in the global community.  Therefore, any reference to “The Right To Work” needs to be legally binding in international treaties so that the individuals and groups can site the mandate as a justification for action from the United Nations or any other entity involved in protecting human welfare.  Non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch can use the principles and language of both doctrines to advocate relief for individuals and groups who suffer abuse. The United Nations has created a number of mechanisms and procedures and forums to mandate and address conduct of nations that violate these rights like the Commission on Human Rights and should be strengthened. The government has an obligation to provide its citizens with opportunities to earn a livelihood in whatever field they choose including the informal sector.

The right to work in the informal sector is especially important when high unemployment exist. States must not destroy a person’s opportunity to earn his or her living (obligation to respect).  States must prevent this opportunity from being destroyed by third parties (obligation to protect).  States must provide the opportunity to earn one’s living to each person who currently does not have this opportunity (obligation to fulfill).  Moreover, people’s preferences as to the type of work they do must be satisfied as far as possible. In application, the state has an obligation to provide vocational guidance, training and  employment services.

Another element of a state’s obligation is nondiscrimination.  People must not be denied access to work (or to any policies or programs related to this right) on the basis of gender, ethnic or national origin, religion, or social or other status. In addition, employment should always be understood both in terms of wage employment and self-em­ployment.  Even though article 6 formulates that states only have "to take steps" to wards full employment, article 2(1) qualifies that these steps have to be taken to the maximum of avail able resources, and hence as quickly as possible.In a society where most people want to work for wages in the market sector, full employment policies need not mean that the state must create new labor-absorbing activities on the labor market (for example, by investment programs).  On the other hand, the state should promote the distribu­tion of the existing volume of work available on the labor market to every body willing and able to carry it out.

            It is also important to stress that a definition of “work” be provided. While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights confirms that human rights are universal, they must be placed in an international framework that creates universal rights and definitions. The mandates may only reflect Western values. Different working rights might need to reflect different cultural values or religions in order for these principles to even be applied to practice. For a mandate to effect working communities, it should include communities in its implementation. People should be used in consultation with governments to apply these human rights policies through public opinion surveys and democratic governance that is more inclusive.

The term "to earn" has certain moral overtones.  If you earn money, you are justly rewarded for some service you render for the well-being of others.  Work thus has to do with your re lation to and participation in your society’s (or your family’s) activities to secure its survival and well-being.  It includes the acceptance and gratification you derive from your community or society. Even in welfare societies, where the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, housing, etc., is guaranteed to people who do not participate in economic activities, the lack of participation is seen as a severe deprivation by these victims of unemployment.  It can lead to social isolation and to the dis integration of personality.  Work as a human rights standard is therefore much more than just a tool to attain an adequate standard of living.

 From this description it should be clear that work as a human right is quite different from mere wage labor.  Indigenous peasants and fisherfolk work, so do hunters and gatherers, traders and businessmen.  Work may be more (as with indigenous people) or less (as with wage laborers) integrated into the rest of life and activities.  Nevertheless, work always means performing some activities that will satisfy needs and create services for your group and society, and it is therefore accepted and rewarded.

The type of work a person does depend on access to resources, education and training.  Work can be enjoyed as a wage-employed person or as a self-em­ployed per son.  A crucial feature of work is that it allows persons to earn their living. The right to work means that work and access to resources are distributed in a way that al lows for the participation of everyone who wants to work. There is an important element of choice and freedom in the economic activity to earn one’s living.  The right to work therefore means not only that work is distributed in a way that allows for the participation of everyone, but also that a person’s preference in how to earn his or her living is a human rights guarantee as well.  .