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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information 8 Acceptable Conditions of Work The Trade Act of 2002 requires that nations provide their workers with what it calls “internationally recognized worker rights” in or der to receive certain trade preferences. The act defines these “internationally recognized worker rights” as: the right of association; the right to organize and bargain collectively; a prohibition on the use of any form of forced or compulsory labor; a minimum age for the employment of children and a prohibition on the worst forms of child labor; and acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health. The first two are, together, one of the four core labor standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO) as are the next two. Missing is the standard to eliminate discrimination. The last item on this list, “acceptable conditions of work,” originally entered U.S. law in the Trade and Tariff Act of 1984 and is not a core labor standard. The committee uses this term with its three components, even though full compliance with the components would not necessarily result in “acceptable” working conditions in the everyday usage of the term. Acceptable conditions of work differs fundamentally from the core international labor standards in two respects (Hagen, 2002). First, world
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information leaders agreed in 1995 and 1998 that all nations, regardless of their level of development, should support and make good faith efforts to achieve four core international labor standards (see Chapter 1). There is no comparable international consensus supporting a defined set of standards governing working conditions. Second, reflecting this international consensus, a large majority of the 175 member nations of the ILO has ratified the eight ILO conventions on the four core international standards (see Table 8-1). Ratification of an ILO convention is an imperfect measure of a nation’s commitment to international labor standards, and some countries that have not TABLE 8-1 The Four Core International Labor Standards Four Fundamental Principles Corresponding ILO Conventions Convention Ratifications as of June 6, 2003 (of 175 ILO members) Freedom of association and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining No. 87: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize (1948) 142 No. 98: Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining (1949) 152 Elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor No. 29: Forced Labor (1930) 161 No. 105: Abolition of Forced Labor (1957) 159 Effective abolition of child labor No. 138: Minimum Age (1973) 125 No. 182: Worst Forms of Child Labor (1999) 138 Elimination of discrimination in respect of employment or occupation No. 100: Equal Remuneration (1951) 161 No. 111: Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) (1958) 159
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information TABLE 8-2 Major ILO Conventions on Wages, Hours, and Health and Safety Convention Number of Ratifications as of June 6, 2003 (of 175 ILO members) Minimum wages No. 26 (1928), Mechanisms to set minimum wages 103 No. 99 (1951), Mechanisms to set minimum wages in agriculture 53 No. 131 (1970), Mechanisms to set minimum wages, especially in developing countries, and considering needs of workers and their families and level of economic development 45 Hours No. 1 (1919), 8-Hour day, 48-hour week 52 No. 14 (1921), Weekly day of rest for industrial workers 117 No. 30 (1930), 8-Hour day, with 10 hours allowed in special circumstances, 48-hour week 30 No. 47 (1935 ), 40-Hour week 14 No. 52 (1936), Holidays with pay—superseded by No. 132 (1970) 54 No. 101 (1952), Holidays with pay in agriculture 46 No. 106 (1957), Weekly rest in commerce and offices 62 No. 132 (1970), Holidays with pay, revised 33 Health and safety No. 155 (1981), Occupational safety and health 40 No. 161 (1985), Occupational health services 22 No. 174 (1993), Prevention of major industrial accidents 9 NOTES: Many additional ILO conventions address working conditions for particular groups of workers (e.g., No. 79, night work of young persons) and particular industries (e.g., No. 167, safety and health in construction). Several conventions also address particular hazards (e.g., No. 162, asbestos; and No. 170, chemicals). All of these have low ratification rates. ratified the core conventions have equivalent legal provisions. Nevertheless, as shown in Table 8-2, the smaller number of ratifications of ILO conventions on working conditions suggests there is less international agreement on wages, hours, and working conditions than on the core labor standards. When launching the “Decent Work” campaign in 1999, ILO Direc-
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information tor-General Juan Samovia emphasized the importance of creating jobs in countries at various levels of development (Somavia, 1999, p. 3): In order for work to be decent, there must first be work. Employment creation is already the first political priority worldwide; it must now become the first economic priority. Unemployed people know well one basic reality: there are few workers’ rights without work. Reflecting the lack of consensus on any uniform wage levels around the world, Somavia has continued to emphasize the need to create jobs within a broader context of economic development. For example, in a report to the 2001 International Labour Conference, Somavia called on each member nation of the ILO to set its own goals for reducing its deficit of decent work within the context of a “dynamic development strategy” (Somavia, 2001). At the same time, however, he emphasized that the four core international labor standards are to be applied uniformly, stating that “the principles and rights of the ILO Declaration are valid everywhere.”(Somavia, 2001, p. 7). DEFINITIONS To define “acceptable conditions of work,” the committee first examined the legislative history of the term and then considered several alternative interpretations. Legislative History The Trade Act of 2002 does not define “acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health,” and no regulations defining these terms have been promulgated. Because the 2002 law continues worker rights provisions that were originally approved by Congress in 1984, it is useful to look at the history of that law. When Congress inserted the phrase “internationally recognized worker rights” in the 1984 Trade Act, it did not draw from established international law. U.S. foreign relations law does refer to “internationally recognized human rights” (emphasis added) and recognizes some worker rights (such as the prohibition of slavery) as human rights (Potter, 2003). However, U.S. foreign relations law recognizes only those labor rights that vio-
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information late a human right common in all legal systems and does not refer to any internationally recognized worker rights. The Senate Finance Committee Report on the Omnibus Trade Act of 1988 offers1 some insight on what Congress meant by “internationally recognized worker rights”: The particular worker rights and standards specified by this provision … are each covered by conventions of the International Labour Organization ratified by a large number of countries which in turn are bound to uphold and enforce its provisions. For example, with respect to the right to organize and bargain collectively, 113 countries have ratified International Labour Organization Convention Number 98. Finally, the legislative history suggests that acceptable conditions of work might vary with a nation’s level of development. The House Ways and Means Committee wrote, “It is recognized that acceptable minimum standards may vary from country to country” (U.S. House of Representatives, Ways and Means Committee, 1983). The conference report states, “It is the intention of the Conferees that this definition of internationally recognized worker rights [the list of rights included in the Trade and Tariff Act of 1984 and most recently in the Trade Act of 2002] be interpreted to be commensurate with the development level of the particular country” (U.S. House of Representatives, Ways and Means Committee, 1984). Alternative Interpretations One possible interpretation of the intentions of the U.S. Congress is that acceptable conditions of work are those provided by widely ratified ILO conventions, perhaps by at least 100 nations. Following this interpretation, those working conditions governed by ILO conventions ratified by at least 100 nations would be “acceptable.” Based on this interpretation, U.S. government officials might consider a nation as providing workers with “acceptable conditions of work,” if there is a mechanism to set a minimum wage, as called for in ILO Convention No. 26, and industrial workers receive a weekly day of rest, as called for in Convention No. 14. As 1 The provisions of this act, which allow the United States to retaliate with higher tariffs against a nation that gains competitive advantage by systematically denying basic internationally recognized worker rights, have never been implemented.
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information shown in Table 8-2, these two conventions have been ratified by more than 100 nations. A second interpretation of acceptable conditions of work would be based on the facts that, as discussed in previous chapters, a nation’s decision to ratify an ILO convention does not necessarily mean that that nation’s workers enjoy the rights embodied in that convention and that a nonratifying country may enforce domestic laws that ensure workers enjoy those rights. If so, one could interpret acceptable conditions of work as those conditions that a large number of countries have affirmed either by ratifying a relevant ILO convention or by enforcing equivalent provisions in domestic law. Under this interpretation, the U.S. government would not only look at the status of ratification of ILO conventions, but also examine national laws to see whether they contain similar provisions governing wages, hours, and occupational safety and health. Common international norms in ratifications or laws would become the standard for assessing acceptable conditions of work. For example, although only 52 nations have ratified ILO Convention No. 1, providing for a 48-hour workweek (see Table 8-2), a much larger group of 138 nations has legislated regular working hours of 48 hours or less, and 96 nations have daily overtime limits (see Table 8-3). Following this interpretation, the U.S. government might find TABLE 8-3 Laws on Hours of Work Maximum Regular Workweek Number of Countries 48 hours 53 More than 44, less than 48 hours 16 44 hours 17 More than 40, less than 44 hours 8 40 hours 42 Less than 40 hours 2 Total countries with 48 hours or less 138 Daily overtime limits 4 hours 32 3 hours 19 2 hours 40 1 hour 5 Total countries with daily overtime limits 96 SOURCE: International Labour Organization (1995, p. 337), available at http://www.ilo.org/public/english/protection/condtrav/pdf/1995digest.pdf [October 2003].
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information it acceptable if a nation meets this international norm by legislating and enforcing a regular workweek of 48 hours. In the committee’s view, long workweeks do not necessarily indicate that working conditions are not acceptable in the ordinary usage of the term. As the committee was preparing this report, the South Korean government briefly proposed that the standard workweek be reduced from 5 1/2 to 5 days. At first, organized labor strongly supported this change. However, once unions learned that the law would have reduced weekly pay proportionately, they quickly withdrew their support. In this case, and in others, workers may prefer longer workweeks. A final interpretation of acceptable conditions of work is that a condition is judged to be acceptable or not with reference to some external standard. For example, the United States has official poverty lines for families of different sizes. By this external standard, a wage level that does not provide a worker and his or her family with wages above the poverty line might be deemed unacceptable. Because this issue is so important, both with regard to ILO conventions and with regard to the U.S. Department of State’s reports, the next section of the report deals specifically with it. Challenges in Defining an Acceptable Minimum Wage Defining an acceptable minimum wage level, or a “living wage,” in various countries is particularly difficult because of the challenge of finding a common basis across countries and over time. For example, in India, an official committee concluded in 1954 that a living wage, should enable the male earner to provide for himself and his family not merely the bare essentials of food, clothing and shelter, but a measure of frugal comfort including education for the children, protection against ill health, requirements of essential social needs and a measure of insurance against the more important misfortunes including old age (Government of India, Ministry of Labour, 1954, p. 7). To carry out these recommendations, the Indian Labour conference assumed that a family included the wage earner and three dependents, with corresponding specific food, clothing, housing, and fuel requirements. However, even ignoring the gender bias in the assumption that only the male earns wages, other assumptions may not accurately reflect reality. In India, the majority (52 percent) of those who worked in 1999-2000
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information were self-employed as workers (often unpaid) in family farms, informal enterprises, or as artisans and traders. Because they do not earn wages, a living wage does not apply. Another third of India’s work force in 1999-2000 were casual workers, often employed by the day. Enforcing a living wage for these workers would be impossible as a practical matter. Finally, available data from household surveys indicate that the assumptions made in 1957 about number of dependents, food, clothing, and other needs are no longer correct. A U.S. Department of Labor (2000) study of wages and workers’ needs in the apparel and footwear industries in 35 developing countries, found: For the countries considered, there appears to be little conclusive evidence on the extent to which wages and non-wage benefits in the footwear and apparel industries meet workers’ basic needs. The Department of Labor noted that “opinions vary widely” on such question as whether a single wage earner should be expected to support the entire family, how many dependents would be supported, and whether income from other sources should be considered.2 In addition, nonwage benefits account for a substantial portion of average compensation costs in some developing nations. Finally, even if it had been possible to account for all of these factors to establish a correct “living wage,” a lack of high quality, comparable data on minimum wages and on prevailing or average wages in the footwear and apparel industries hampered the analysis. The authors concluded: For several countries where data are available, the minimum wage (and in a few more countries, the prevailing wage in the footwear or apparel industries) may yield an income above the national poverty threshold for an individual (and perhaps one dependent, but not for a family of 4 or 5 with one wage-earner). However, whether this wage is a “living wage” is likely to lie in the eye of the beholder. 2 There is an extensive academic debate about both the potential benefits of requiring employers to pay a “decent wage” or “living wage” and the possibility that such a requirement might discriminate against certain groups of workers, regions, or countries (see, e.g., Moran, 2003; Srinivasan, 2001).
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information Department of State Definitions The Trade Act of 2002, in reauthorizing the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Program, requires that the President shall submit an annual report to the Congress on the status of internationally recognized worker rights within each beneficiary developing country (19 U.S. Code, Sec. 2464). Before its amendment in 2002, the law was more specific, requiring the Secretary of State to submit to Congress: … a full and complete report regarding the status of internationally recognized human rights … in countries that receive assistance … and in all other foreign countries which are members of the United Nations and which are not otherwise the subject of a human rights report under this Act (The Trade Assistance Act of 1974, as amended). As required by these laws, the Secretary of State has submitted annual reports on countries’ human rights and worker rights practices since 1977. The first reports covered only the 82 countries that received U.S. aid at that time, but by 2001 reports were prepared on 195 countries (see U.S. Department of State, 2002). For the purpose of preparing these reports, the Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor has defined acceptable conditions of work (U.S. Department of State, 2002, Appendix B): “Acceptable conditions of work” refers to the establishment and maintenance of mechanisms, adapted to national conditions, that provide for minimum working standards, that is: wages that provide a decent living for workers and their families; working hours that do not exceed 48 hours per week, with a full 24-hour rest day; a specified number of annual paid leave days; and minimum conditions for the protection of the safety and health of workers. Differences in the levels of economic development are taken into account in the formulation of internationally recognized labor standards. For example, many ILO standards concerning working conditions permit flexibility in their scope and coverage. They also may permit governments a wide choice in their implementation, including progressive implementation, by enabling them to accept a standard in part or subject to specified exceptions. Governments are expected to take steps over time to achieve the higher levels specified in such standards. However, this
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information flexibility applies only to internationally recognized standards concerning working conditions. The ILO permits no flexibility in the acceptance of the basic human rights standards, that is, freedom of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, the prohibition of forced labor, and the absence of discrimination. The bureau has expanded on this definition in a memo to U.S. embassies providing guidance for the preparation of the annual country reports. The guidance memo for preparation of the 2001 reports asked posts to address the following questions on acceptable conditions of work (U.S. Department of State, 2002): Minimum Wage: Is there a legislated or administrative minimum wage rate (set nationally, or by province or industry) and, if so, are there significant parts of the workforce outside of its coverage? What is the (hourly or daily) rate in U.S. dollars? Is it effectively enforced? By which agency? Given the level of economic development in the country, does it provide a decent standard of living for a worker and his/her family? If there is no national minimum wage, posts should indicate whether the average wage provides a decent living for a worker and family. Standard Language: Posts must use or adapt the following language: “The national minimum wage (average daily wage) provides (does not provide) a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Note: In addition to stating the minimum wage in U.S. dollars, give the local currency equivalent in parentheses. For example: “The daily national minimum wage is $5.55 (24 francs).” (If national standards are set in accordance with hourly or weekly, rather than daily minimum wage rates, adapt this language accordingly). Hours of Work: Is there a standard legal workweek of 48 hours or less? Is there at least one 24-hour rest period provided per week? How effectively are such laws/regulations enforced? Are there legal limits on hours per week? Does the law require overtime payment for hours in excess of the standard? Are there prohibitions on compulsory overtime?
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information Health and Safety: Does the government set occupational health and safety standards? Are they effectively enforced? By what agency? Do any workers suffer physical or sexual abuse? Right to Remove: Do workers have the right to remove themselves from work situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their continued employment? Do laws protect workers who file complaints about such conditions? What preventive measures, if any, has the government taken when industrial accident rates are unusually high or where well-known occupational health problems exist? Foreign Workers: Does the law protect (legal) foreign workers? Are illegal foreign workers protected from exploitation by the law? Do they receive equal treatment in terms of wages and working conditions? Are they concentrated in certain geographical areas or industries? Does the situation of domestic and/or foreign workers (especially those without documentation) in effect amount to coerced or bonded labor? If so, why and to what extent? Are a significant percentage of the foreign workers children or trafficking victims? (If so, briefly indicate the extent of the problem.) Working Definitions To carry out workers’ rights provisions in trade laws and trade agreements, the U.S. government reviews worker rights in other countries. Any interested person may file a petition with the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) requesting action to remove GSP trade benefits because of alleged violations of internationally recognized worker rights (U.S. Code, Title 19, Chapter 12, Section 2412). When it receives such a petition, the USTR conducts an initial review. If it believes the allegations have merit, USTR convenes the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC), made up of representatives from the Departments of State and Labor and other interested agencies, to conduct a formal review. The USTR also convenes the TPSC to conduct formal labor rights reviews when the United States enters into negotiations about a free trade agreement with another country. At other times, such as when a country receives designation as a GSP beneficiary,
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information as most of the cost of establishing an ILO monitoring project. Since 2000, ILO staff and local inspectors have monitored conditions at 195 Cambodian textile and apparel factories. These inspectors measure compliance with Cambodian labor laws. In this case, then, acceptable conditions of work are assumed to be those conditions that are guaranteed by Cambodia’s own labor laws. As shown in Table 8-4, those conditions are quite similar to those required by the U.S. Department of State’s definition of acceptable conditions of work. TABLE 8-4 Department of State Definition of Acceptable Conditions of Work and Cambodian Labor Law Acceptable Condition Provisions in Cambodian Law Wages that provide a decent living for workers and their families The minimum wage for the garment sector is $45 per month for regular workers, $40 per month for workers on probation, and $30 per month for apprentices. If a piece rate worker falls below $45 per month, the employer must make up the difference. The law also provides for seniority bonuses, overtime pay on nights and weekends, and a meal allowance. Working hours do not exceed 48 hours per week, with a full 24-hour rest day and a specified number of annual paid leave days Hours of work cannot exceed eight hours per day, or 48 hours per week. Overtime must be voluntary. Weekly time off shall last for a minimum of 24 consecutive hours. All workers shall be given in principle a day off on Sunday. All workers are entitled to 18 days of paid annual leave after 1 year of service. In addition, the Ministry of Labor has declared 24 paid public holidays for 2002, with work on those days to be paid at twice the normal rate. Minimum conditions for the protection of the safety and health of workers All establishments must maintain working conditions necessary for workers’ health and must guarantee the safety of workers. SOURCE: International Labour Organization (2001).
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information Although Cambodian laws, if adequately enforced, appear capable of providing most of the requirements of the Department of State definition of “acceptable conditions of work,” there is one important difference. In enforcing the trade agreement, USTR follows the ILO review, and this review focuses on enforcement of Cambodia’s wage and overtime laws, without considering whether such laws provide a “decent wage.” Following its stricter interpretation, the U.S. Department of State’s review of wages in 2001 found, “prevailing wages in the garment sector … were insufficient to provide a worker and family with a decent standard of living” (U.S. Department of State, 2002). In the three reports on Cambodian textile and apparel workers completed to date, monitors have found only a few violations of core labor standards prohibiting child labor and forced labor. However, each report has found problems of incorrect payment of wages and extensive, involuntary overtime (Sibbel, 2002). Because Cambodia has made progress, but has not yet reached full compliance with “acceptable conditions of work,” the U.S. Trade Representative allowed Cambodia’s export quotas to increase 9 percent in 2000, 2001, and 2002, rather than the full 14 percent possible under the Cambodia Bilateral Textile Agreement (American Embassy Cambodia, 2002). In early 2002, the United States and Cambodia negotiated a 3-year extension of the trade agreement, including the export increase incentive for compliance with international labor standards. Committee Interpretation of Acceptable Conditions of Work The committee recognizes that the U.S. government does not use a single interpretation of acceptable conditions of work. Using alternative interpretations has the benefit of allowing the government to interpret the law flexibly, as called for by the legislative history. The Department of State definition, incorporates many elements that are also found in ILO conventions and are often found in national laws and regulations. However, actually determining on a country-by-country basis whether or not they meet the standards of wages that provide a decent living for workers and their families is problematic. As indicated in the Department of State’s guidance memo to embassies, Foreign Service officers around the world are expected to make judgments about whether wages in their host nations provide a decent living. Over the past decade, the number of Foreign Service officers with specific training and responsibility to deal with labor issues has declined (Advisory Committee on Labor Diplomacy, 2000). Even those who
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information have some training are unlikely to be able to accurately access data on average nationwide wage levels and determine whether those levels provide a “decent living.” The committee proposes the following minimum, tractable, easily identifiable, and comparable list of indicators of acceptable conditions of work: a mechanism exists to establish minimum wages (based on ILO Convention No. 26); the regular workweek is 48 hours or less (based on ILO Conventions No. 1, 30, 47 and on widespread national law); the nation has and enforces a law providing for a specified number of paid holidays days each year for covered workers (based on ILO Conventions No. 52, 101, 132); all workers in covered jobs receive a full day of rest every 7 days (this expands ILO Convention No. 14, which applies only to industrial workers); and there is a mechanism for setting health and safety standards (ILO Convention No. 155). The committee recognizes that, unless a large share of the labor force is covered by these provisions, compliance with them might not improve the welfare of all workers to a significant extent. The committee also recognizes that it would be possible to supplement this list with additional indicators. ASSESSING COMPLIANCE Because acceptable conditions of work is a construct of U.S. law, rather than a core international labor standard, measuring compliance has a somewhat different meaning. This section of the chapter discusses indicators and data to assess compliance with the committee’s proposed definition of acceptable conditions of work. Legal Framework The committee proposes 19 indicators on the legal framework governing wages, hours, and health and safety: A-1. ratification of ILO Convention No. 131 on minimum wage fixing machinery;
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information A-2. national constitution or law establishing one or more minimum wages; A-3. application of the minimum wage law or laws (to whom do the minimum wage law/laws apply? Do the legal minimums vary by geographic region, economic sector, and/or by establishment size?); A-4. minimum wage level(s) specified in the law (in local currency and in U.S. dollars and, if possible, adjusted using the World Bank’s Purchasing Power Parity exchange rate for the local currency); A-5. ratification of ILO Conventions No. 1, 30, or 47, limiting the regular workweek to 48 hours or less; A-6. national constitutional or legal provision for a regular workweek of 48 hours or less; A-7. the coverage of laws limiting the regular workweek (e.g., only establishments of a certain size, only those in certain industrial sectors or regions); A-8. provision in national laws or regulations for overtime beyond the regular workweek; A-9. ratification of ILO Convention No. 14, providing a weekly day of rest; A-10. provision in the national constitution or law for a weekly day of rest; A-11. ratification of ILO Convention No. 101, providing paid holidays for workers in agriculture; A-12. provision in the national constitution or laws for paid holidays for agricultural workers; A-13. ratification of ILO Convention No. 52, providing for an annual paid holiday of at least 6 days; A-14. ratification of ILO Convention No. 132, providing for an annual paid holiday of at least 3 weeks (supersedes C. 52); A-15. provision in national laws/constitution for a specified number of paid holidays for employed workers; A-16. ratification of ILO Convention No. 81 on labor inspection; A-17. provision in national laws for inspection of workplaces; A-18. ratification of ILO Convention No. 155 on a mechanism to provide health and safety; and A-19. provision in the national constitution or laws for workplace health and safety.
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information Government Performance The committee proposes 13 indicators of government performance. Government performance is indicated based on the presence (or absence) of the following: B-1. a mechanism for fixing minimum wages; B-2. an agency to promote and enforce laws governing hours of work; B-3. an agency to promote and enforce laws protecting occupational safety and health; B-4. a labor inspectorate; B-5. the breadth of labor inspections in the country (number and frequency of visits, geographic regions, or industry sectors inspected); B-6. the level of resources (e.g., personnel, pay, or budget) devoted to the labor inspectorate; B-7. a labor inspectorate trained to and focused on wages, hours, and occupational safety and health standards; B-8. an administrative or judicial complaint mechanism; B-9. effectiveness of the complaint mechanism (in such terms as number of complaints brought compared with number of complaints heard, number of prosecutions, fines, or arrests, and length of time for complaint resolution); B-10. government programs to combat problems in the areas of wages, hours, and occupational safety and health; B-11. government-sponsored education programs focusing on wages, hours, and occupational safety and health; B-12. government receipt of international technical assistance in the areas of wages, hours, and occupational safety and health; and B-13. government support for NGO activities designed to improve compliance with wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws. Overall Outcomes The committee proposes five indicators of outcomes: C-1. average and median manufacturing wages compared with minimum wage(s) in local currency and in U.S. dollars; C-2. average earnings in industries that export to the United States; C-3. average hours worked per week;
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information C-4. number of work-related fatalities per 100,000 workers, both overall and by industry sector; and C-5. number of occupational injuries, both absolute and as a fraction of the total workforce and the workforce covered by health and safety laws. INFORMATION SOURCES To assess a country’s legal framework on minimum wages, hours, and occupational health, an assessor may first turn to sources at the ILO. The ILO regularly updates its NATLEX database, with bibliographic references and full texts of national labor, social security, and human rights laws and regulations. NATLEX currently includes the laws of approximately 175 countries, along with 50 territories, provinces, or states. Each entry is available in either English, French, or Spanish (the three working languages of the ILO). The assessor may turn to another ILO resource—the ILOLEX database—for information on the extent to which a nation’s wages, hours, and health and safety laws comply with related ILO conventions that the nation has ratified. Within ILOLEX, the comments of the ILO Committee of Experts on the Applications of Conventions and Resolutions, which focuses on comparing national labor laws and regulations with ratified conventions, are a particularly useful resource. In addition to ILO sources on national labor law, many research libraries around the world maintain online databases of national laws and regulations, including labor laws.3 Country reports to the United Nations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights provide another useful source of information on laws and their enforcement governing wages, hours, and occupational health and safety. Many nations routinely prepare reports that address working conditions (as well as other matters) to the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights under this covenant. These country reports are available to the public through the United Nations website.4 Nearly a decade ago, Behrman and Rosenzweig (1994, p. 167) examined education and employment data from around the world and reported: 3 For example, national laws are available from the University of Chicago at http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/^llou/foreiign^law/html. 4 See http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_cescr.htm [November 24, 2003].
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information There is a serious problem in comparability in aggregate employment statistics that may affect inferences about the size of and trends in the labor force and its productivity … data gaps are systematically related to the level of a country’s development. In their article, Behrman and Rosenzweig noted that the ILO, which was (and still is) the primary source of such aggregate data, had acknowledged that its aggregate data were not necessarily comparable across countries or over time (International Labour Organization, 1991, p. xi). These problems reflect the fact that the ILO did not (and still does not) collect primary data in the field. Instead, the ILO compiles global data bases from data provided by various nations’ National Statistical Offices (NSOs). Although the ILO develops guidelines, provides technical assistance, and holds regular meetings with these offices, it has only limited influence on their data collection methods. At the most basic level, NSOs define “employed” or “economically active” differently, varying in the extent to which they include workers in family enterprises, the time period required to be considered employed, and the ages of workers included. Today, the lack of accurate, comparable aggregate data on wages, hours, and health and safety continues. Rama and Artecona (2002) have developed a global database of labor market indicators across countries including several indicators of compliance with International Labor Standards. The authors note that available data are plagued with problems and are usually not comparable across countries. To create the database, they went through hundreds of individual, country-level data sets, selecting those indicators they felt most accurately reflected each country’s labor market conditions. Given these data problems, an ideal assessment of compliance with acceptable conditions of work would use country-level data sources to inform the indicators listed above. However, the assessor would need to carefully evaluate each national data source, selecting only those that used similar definitions and survey methods if the data were to be used to compare compliance across countries. For example, “national” data on wages and hours, to inform overall outcome indicators C-2 and C-3 above are often derived from surveys limited to large firms in the formal sector. In Korea, data on wages are based on surveys of firms with more than 10 employees, excluding the many individuals who are self-employed or working in small family enterprises. These data are much less representative of the average national wage than are U.S. data on average wages, which are based on
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information regular monthly surveys of a broad national sample of U.S. households. Similarly, data on hours of work in Argentina are available for only one region of the country—Greater Buenos Aires (International Labour Organization, 1995), and employment data for Brazil is based on surveys that exclude the rural population in the northern part of the country (Behrman and Rosenzweig, 1994). It was not possible, within the real-world constraints of time and resources, to take this ideal approach. The committee could not assess the quality of the various surveys or censuses that NSOs in different countries use to collect primary national data on wages, hours, and working conditions. Instead, the committee chose to draw on aggregate data sources to develop our set of compliance indicators. Most national-level data (including those related to acceptable conditions of work) are applicable only to a specific country, using a country-specific definition. These national level data may or may not be comparable within countries over time, and they are often not comparable across countries. Rather than excluding data that do not meet a strict set of quality criteria, it is important to document each indicator and record the drawbacks as fully as possible, allowing users to judge the quality for themselves. The general problems with labor market data from developing countries also pose a challenge to accurately assessing occupational health and safety in developing nations. Outcome indicators C-4 and C-5 above require data on injuries and fatalities resulting from work, but accurate data on work-related injuries are particularly difficult to obtain. Researchers have found that occupational injuries and illnesses are systematically under-reported, even in the United States, a developed nation with both extensive health and safety regulations and expertise in surveys and statistics, (Azaroff et al., 2002). At the ILO, experts developing indicators of “decent work” have chosen to focus only on occupational fatalities because of the limited reliability of data on occupational accidents and diseases (Hagen, 2002). In addition to fatalities, their indicators include the number of labor inspections (indicator B-5, above), the number of employees covered by occupational injury insurance, and an indicator of “excessive hours of work.” Although these data problems pose a challenge to accurately measuring wages, hours, and health and safety conditions in developing countries at any given time, measuring improvement or deterioration in compliance with acceptable conditions of work is even more difficult because definitions, sampling frames, and questions often change over time. For example, in India, the census definition of a worker was changed between the 1961
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information and 1971 population censuses and again in the 1981 census (Srinivasan, 1994). Thus, an assessor who wants to determine whether a country is making progress or going backward in wages, hours, and working condition must carefully examine the sources of data to determine whether they are comparable over time. Only a few developing countries—including Taiwan, Indonesia, Costa Rica, and Brazil—obtain data on wages and conditions of work through household surveys using consistent questions and a consistent sampling frame over time (Fields and Bagg, 2003). CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS The committee concludes that the U.S. Department of State’s requirement for “wages that provide a decent living for workers and their families” is difficult to make operational. 8-1 The committee recommends, based on its development of indicators for the database, that the U.S. government develop and use a common definition of acceptable conditions of work. At a minimum, this definition should identify a nation’s working conditions as fulfilling the “acceptable conditions of work” clause in U.S. trade law if that nation has: a mechanism to establish minimum wages, a regular workweek of 48 hours or less, a specific number of paid holidays each year for covered workers, a provision that all workers receive a full day of rest every 7 days, and a mechanism for setting health and safety standards. 8-2 The committee recommends examining whether funds for household surveys could be more efficiently used by designing fewer, more comprehensive household surveys. 8-3 The committee recommends analysis of approaches to combining data from household surveys with data from administrative records (such as payroll data). 8-4 The committee recommends that a team of experts in statistics, industrial relations, labor law, and labor market economics
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Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information conduct case studies to assess the data needs of a small number of countries. REFERENCES Advisory Committee on Labor Diplomacy. (2000). A world of decent work: Labor diplomacy for the new century. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State. Available: http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/labor/acld_report/acld_toc.html [February 13, 2003]. American Embassy Cambodia, Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements. (2002, January 3). Announcement of import restraint limits for certain cotton, wool and man-made fiber textile products produced or manufactured in Cambodia. Available: http://usembassy.state.gov/cambodia/wwwh0045.html [December 8, 2002]. Azaroff, L.S., Levenstein, C., and Wegman, D. (2002). Occupational injury and illness surveillance: Conceptual filters explain underreporting. American Journal of Public Health, 92(9). Behrman, J.R., and Rosenzweig, M.R. (1994). Caveat emptor: Cross-country data on education and the labor force. Journal of Development Economics, 44. Clatanoff, W. (2002, November 11). U.S. government approaches to assessing national protection of international labor rights. Paper prepared for the National Research Council Workshop on National Legal Frameworks and Enforcement Mechanisms: Assessing National Compliance with International Labor Standards. Washington, DC. Compa, L. (2002, October). Assessing assessments: A survey of efforts to measure countries’ compliance with freedom of association standards. Paper prepared for the National Research Council Workshop on International Labor Standards: Quality of Information and Measures of Progress. Washington, DC. Available: http://www7.nationalacademies.org/internationallabor/Dqworkshop.html [November 26, 2002]. Elliott, K., and Freeman, R. (2003). Can labor standards improve under globalization? Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics. Fields, G., and Bagg, W.S. (2003). Long-term economic mobility and the private sector in developing countries. In G.S. Fields and G.P. Pfeffermann (Eds.), Pathways out of poverty. Boston: Kluwer. Government of India, Ministry of Labour. (1954). Report of the committee on fair wages. New Delhi: Author. Hagen, K. (2002, October). The measurement of indicators for acceptable conditions of work. Paper prepared for the National Research Council Workshop on Acceptable Conditions of Work. Washington, DC. International Labour Organization. (1991). Yearbook of labour statistics. Geneva: International Labour Office. International Labour Organization. (1995). Conditions of work digest: Working time legislation and trends throughout the world. Available: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/protection/condtrav/pdf/1995digest.pdf [November 20, 2003]. International Labour Organization. (2001). First synthesis report on the working conditions ituation in Cambodia’s garment sector. Available: http://ilo.org/public/english/dialogue/ifpdial/publ/cambodia.htm [June 2003].
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Representative terms from entire chapter: