ILO – Concept, history and functions

We explain what the ILO is, when it was founded and the history of this international organization. In addition, its different functions.

The ILO deals with matters relevant to labor law.

What is ILO?

ILO stands for the International Labor Organization, a specialized agency attached to the United Nations (UN) created to deal with matters pertaining to labor law and labor relations.

The ILO was founded in 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles was signed that ended the First World War. Its constitution, sanctioned on that date, was supplemented by the Declaration of Philadelphia of 1944. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland, but it has an area of ​​operation that encompasses 187 different countries, against whose governments it cannot sanction.

The structure of the ILO is governed by a tripartite government, made up of representatives of governments, workers’ unions and employers’ or employers’ associations, so that all parties affected in labor relations are represented there.

It presents an International Labor Conference that meets annually and serves as its supreme body; while its executive body is the Board of Directors, of quarterly meeting. It does not have a president, but it does have a general director.

The ILO’s work in the field of mediation between employers and employees, defense of labor rights and promotion of work earned it the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969.

History of the ILO

The purpose of the ILO was to guarantee the improvement of working conditions.

As has been said, this body was founded at the beginning of the 20th century and its first general director was the French socialist politician Albert Thomas. The emergence of this new tripartite body, unique in its kind, was to guarantee the improvement of working conditions, just as the International Association for the Legal Protection of Workers, founded in Basel in 1901, had done until then.

These types of movements were due to the need to organize the different forces involved in work, as a result of the profound changes in society that the advent of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution had brought with them. This was greatly influenced by the labor, union and workers parties and groups, whose continuous struggle for more than a century produced notable advances in labor matters.

Functions of the ILO

The ILO promotes job creation and protects workers’ rights.

The ILO is generally dedicated to promoting job creation, protecting workers’ rights and promoting social dialogue between the various parties involved, for the sake of harmony. In that sense, it focuses on four main axes:

  • Principles and rights of the worker. The defense of acquired rights and the prosecution of illegal forms of work, such as child exploitation or slavery.
  • Employment generation. The promotion of growth in labor matters and of agreements that are beneficial both for the worker on time and for the employer in the long run.
  • Social protection. The defense of workers at the health level: insurance coverage, occupational risks, etc.
  • Social dialogue. Maintain peace between the various parties involved and prevent some from taking advantage of the weaknesses or efforts of others.