The human being in focus

Issue 84 - November | December 2019

The historian Daniel Maul continues to see a great role for the International Labor Organization.

Daniel Maul, University of Oslo
Daniel Maul researches and teaches global social policy at the University of Oslo. He is the author of the book "The International Labor Organization: 100 years of global social policy".
The ILO has been around for 100 years. What is the core of the organization?

Maul: The ILO has done something very important: it has organized a strong consensus among its member states from the lessons of the past, namely, that all politics should serve one ultimate social goal - the human being. The ILO has always advocated an active state and meaningful social policy regulation, but at the same time was never a radical or revolutionary organization. Rather, the ILO has begun to make capitalism and an open economy more humane. 

What are the challenges facing the ILO?

Maul: The tripartite principle of the ILO, which has always been a great strength of the organization, is under pressure from various quarters. On the one hand, the unions in many industrialized countries are losing their importance and thus of representativeness and bargaining power. On the other hand, many people worldwide are in precarious or informal employment relationships and are thus usually not unionized. Unlike its founding, the ILO today claims to be a global organization whose clientele are all working people worldwide, not just traditional industrial workers or white-collar workers. The ILO is therefore very keen to consider these new realities both in the standard setting - which since 2011 includes also the aspect of home work - and in the technical cooperation. 

What are the big future questions of the ILO?

Maul: The core is the support of the Member States. There are many big issues of the future, such as digitization, new forms of work or migration, where the ILO can and should play an important role in finding consensus and initiating new regulations. Ultimately, however, the ILO is only as strong as its member countries, and only where its members believe it will be useful. However, for the ILO to be capable of action, it also requires strong unions and employers' organizations that show an active interest in cooperation within the organization. But I am convinced that the ILO has by far not exhausted its mandate.

Thank you for the interview.
Photo: University of Oslo

To the main story

Worker in an Indonesian electronics factory

The fight for better work

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has been advocating humane working conditions worldwide for a hundred years. Today it has long been more than just a standard-setting organization.