Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 33
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information 2 Official and Nongovernmental Sources of Information Information on compliance with international labor standards and acceptable conditions of work is available from a wide range of sources, including international organizations, national governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and academic researchers. The committee’s task was to identify “relevant, valid, reliable and useful sources of country-level data on labor standards and incorporate them into a database” that could be used to assess compliance. Unfortunately, this task is not as straightforward as it appears. Assessing compliance along the three dimensions proposed by the committee—(A) legal framework; (B) government performance; and (C) overall outcomes—requires consideration of both qualitative reports and quantitative data. But the quality of both types of information is uneven and research methods for measuring compliance with international labor standards and acceptable conditions of work are still in the developmental stages. This chapter presents an overview of major information sources identified by the committee that cover all or most of the core labor standards and conditions of work. More detailed descriptions of sources of information that are specific to each of the core labor standards and conditions of work are found in Chapters 4-8. Chapter 9 contains sources of information examining the linkages between compliance and national human capital policies. Chapter 3 describes information sources related to voluntary monitoring.
OCR for page 34
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information OVERVIEW OF THE DATABASE The committee has accomplished its goal of constructing the comprehensive structure of WebMILS, though currently the cells are not populated except for the data from one country. In an ideal world, the committee might have assessed all sources of information, both qualitative reports and quantitative data, based on a consistent set of criteria, and proposed for inclusion in the database only those sources that met these criteria. However, the reality is that both qualitative and quantitative sources of information are incomplete and suffer from a variety of quality problems. So, the database is designed to include all available information, from all possible sources. Given the emphasis on legal frameworks and government performance, qualitative sources are essential. Such sources provide on-the-ground reporting on working conditions and workers’ rights. Ideally, such sources would be developed independently of the stakeholders directly involved—governments, employers, and workers—and would be prepared by experts in the field. But, as examined below, qualitative sources of information reflect the perspective of the reporters and may be biased in one direction or another. Some of these reports are complaint-driven, which can introduce selection bias, while others may be written by a committee, or skewed or muted for political reasons. They often lack consistency over time because many of these reports are ad hoc rather than regular and systematic. In developing countries with large informal sectors, both qualitative and quantitative sources are likely to be unrepresentative of conditions overall within an economy. The order in which sources appear in the chapter is roughly the order in which assessors would retrieve evidence from WebMILS database to perform assessments and the order in which subsequent efforts to fill out the database should be conducted, based on criteria of independence and expertise and ready availability of information. Although no source is ideal, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is the obvious starting point for information on member countries’ laws and practices with respect to labor standards. We begin with the regular ILO supervisory process under Article 22 because it involves a committee of independent experts that publishes observations on areas of inconsistency between a country’s laws and its obligations under conventions that it has ratified. For countries that have not ratified the core conventions, the follow-up under the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work requires govern-
OCR for page 35
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information ments to report annually on what they are doing in law and practice to achieve the principles embodied in the four core standards. These government-generated reports, because of their inherent bias, will be more helpful for the legal framework indicators than for indicators of government effectiveness. Together, these reports provide a great deal of information on the application of standards in a large number of countries. More selective but also more detailed information is available from investigations under the ILO’s ad hoc supervisory procedures, including the Committee on Freedom of Association. The ILO’s National Labor Codes (NATLEX) database, as well as national sources, also have texts of national constitutions, laws, and regulations, but the country coverage is limited and, since it includes texts without expert interpretation, the user may need some legal knowledge in order to discern whether particular provisions are consistent with international standards or not. For countries or standards not covered by ILO sources, other official sources, such as the United Nations, require similar country reporting under other relevant international conventions, such as the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, that are also sometimes accompanied by third-party review. The World Bank is also beginning to pay attention to labor standards issues in its country reports, but not as systematically as the other international sources. After international sources, other official sources at the national level can provide supplemental information. The U.S. Department of State report on human rights is particularly handy because of its comprehensive coverage and orientation in section 6 toward assessing the status of worker rights around the world, but it and other national sources could be viewed as biased. Similarly, NGO reports are often quite detailed and can be quite useful, particularly those that cover large numbers of countries. But they will also often be subject to selection bias and, whatever the quality of their information, will be viewed with suspicion by the parties they criticize. When attempting to assess compliance with regard to any given country, NGO and other unofficial sources are most valuable, therefore, to provide complementary or contrasting perspectives for matching against other sources. Labor market, economic, and other quantitative data are also essential for assessing compliance, particularly for the indicators in the overall outcomes. Ideally, quantitative data should meet a number of criteria:
OCR for page 36
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information The data were collected in an actual census or survey and are not estimates that extrapolate from data collected in earlier surveys. Survey recipients in the survey sample are drawn from an actual census, which permits issues of representation, selection bias, and nonresponse to be assessed and reported, which is important in judging the validity and reliability of data that emerge from the survey. The data are national in coverage. In some countries, labor data may be collected only for urban areas or only for limited industries. As a consequence, the data are inherently biased because not all parts of the labor force are represented. Survey questions are consistent over time, in order to allow assessments of trends. Any necessary changes in data definitions, survey questions, or collection methods should be fully documented. But these conditions are rarely met. As discussed below the data gathered by national statistical agencies and by international agencies vary widely in terms of coverage, periodicity, and reliability. Few “hard” numbers are available. In general, national-level data to be included in the database are applicable to a country using country-specific definitions. The data are often not comparable across countries, and database users are cautioned against using them in this manner. The data may or may not be comparable within countries over time. In addition, assessors using the database should be sensitive to issues related to questionnaire design, sample design and sampling error, data collection and nonsampling errors (e.g., nonresponse), and data preparation problems (e.g., the possibility of data entry errors). The data should be publicly available with the sources clearly identified. The committee’s database will reflect the limits of currently available information. In populating WebMILS, the focus should be first on sources that are international, cover a majority of countries in the world, are secondary, are easily accessible electronically, and which would be relatively easy to sustain. Such sources are both quantitative and qualitative in nature. The committee’s view is that it is appropriate to include some information in the database that does not meet the ideal criteria. Also, there are other sources of information that have yet to be tapped, such as information collected by national statistical agencies that is not compiled by international agencies, such as the ILO. Additionally, local NGOs may produce information on violations of a specific labor standard within a single country that could be identified and entered into WebMILS. The database,
OCR for page 37
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information therefore, is a way to collect relevant, publicly available, and web-accessible information together in one place—as a starting point—and to provide comments on the reliability or limitations of that information.1 Rather than ignoring data that did not meet a strict set of quality criteria, the committee chose to document each indicator and record the drawbacks as fully as possible, allowing assessors to judge the quality for themselves. There will be a record in the database cell for every combination of variable and political jurisdiction. Currently for the committee’s single-country illustration, the following information is presented, to the extent available. (See Appendix A for some sample views of the database structure.) definition of the indicator; assessment and discussion of the indicator; available information; available sources, including hyperlinks to the relevant information; assessment of the information source, which may include a description of information collection methodology or characteristics of collecting agency, including weaknesses and caveats; and further or related information. The rest of this chapter summarizes the key sources for both qualitative and quantitative information, in four categories: international organizations; national agencies; NGOs, both international and national; and academic research.2 In view of the problems inherent in existing data se- 1 The committee decided to exclude information from media sources. Every nation has numerous newspapers, magazines, radio, and television stations that provide coverage on labor issues. The committee agreed that the media should not be viewed as a primary source of information on compliance with core labor standards and conditions of work. There are clear limitations to the validity of media reports—spotty coverage, political influence, media ownership, complaint-driven coverage, uneven investigation quality, and so forth. Nevertheless, the committee recognizes that the media may be the canary in the coal mine and may serve as a barometer of labor conditions. In this sense, the media should be used as a stimulus to additional investigation in potential labor problems. 2 The discussion of qualitative sources in this chapter draws on Compa (2002). The evaluation of qualitative sources has also benefited from commentary from Anthony Giles, research director, Commission on Labor Cooperation of the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA); Ben Davis, head of the Solidarity Center for the Western Hemisphere, AFL-CIO; and Sandra Polaski, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment.
OCR for page 38
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information ries, the committee recommends extensive investment in further efforts to collect and disseminate high-quality data. INFORMATION FROM INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS The International Labour Organization As the multinational organization charged with establishing international labor standards and supervising their enforcement, the ILO assembles a large amount of compliance information, most of which is made public. The ILO’s website contains helpful information on its supervisory systems in the “frequently asked questions” (FAQs) section of the page on international labor standards. It is also possible to access reports on a country-by-country and convention-specific basis in the ILOLEX and Application of International Labour Standards (APPLIS) databases, making it possible to systematically examine problems with compliance by a particular country or for a particular standard.3 Under ILO’s “regular system of supervision,” countries provide routine reports under Article 22 on how they are meeting the obligations of conventions they have ratified and periodic reports under Article 19 for those they have not ratified. The ILO also has an ad hoc mechanism for investigating allegations of noncompliance against a member state under Articles 24 and 26. In addition to these and other qualitative reports on compliance, the ILO is also the primary international institution that collects and disseminates labor market data. The Regular Supervisory System The ILO regular system of supervision examines member country compliance with international labor standards through member country reports to the ILO that are referred to its Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR). Under Article 22 of the ILO constitution, each member state is required to report annually “on the measures which it has taken to give effect 3 See http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/norm/index.htm for the FAQs on labor standards; for the ILOLEX database, http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/; and for APPLIS, http://webfusion.ilo.org/public/db/standards/normes/appl/index.cfm?lang=EN [October 14, 2003].
OCR for page 39
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information to the provisions of Conventions to which it is a party.” Currently, member countries are required to submit reports on the eight core conventions to the CEACR every 2 years and on other conventions every 5 years. These reports contain the substantive provisions of the convention in question and answer questions about how it is applied in that country both in law and in practice. Article 22 reports would be a valuable source for information on national laws and policies, but they are not readily available to the public. They are on file at the ILO headquarters in Geneva and researchers can, in theory, use them, but they have not been made available on the ILO website as have so many other ILO reports. Thus, these reports have not been included in the prototype database developed in the course of this study. The ILO should consider making the Article 22 reports relating to the eight core conventions available on its website at minimum. Under Article 19 of the ILO constitution, the governing body also requests reports periodically on selected conventions from countries that have not ratified them. Reports prepared under Article 19 are fewer in number than Article 22 reports; and those relating to the core conventions are made available on the ILO website (see below). WebMILS would certainly draw on these reports for country information. Additional sources of information are produced when the CEACR reviews the Article 22 reports submitted to the ILO. Based on its review, CEACR prepares a summary report highlighting both cases of progress and areas of concern, which it submits each year for consideration by the International Labour Conference Committee on the Application of Standards. The conference committee then selects 20 to 30 of the cases highlighted by the CEACR for discussion during the ILO’s annual conference. In reporting on the discussion to a plenary meeting of the conference, this committee sometimes includes “special paragraphs” to highlight particularly troublesome situations or long-standing problems, identified as a “continued failure to implement …”. The CEACR reports are relatively technical, usually involving detailed textual analysis of laws and how they compare with ratified conventions. WebMILS would draw on the CEACR’s “Individual Observations” regarding particular problems in particular countries; these can be accessed by country on the ILO website (through the ILOLEX or APPLIS databases). (The database does not draw on the general report of the CEACR.) WebMILS would also draw from the annually prepared General Report of the Conference on the Application of Standards, as appropriate.
OCR for page 40
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information Follow-Up Reporting Under the 1998 Declaration As part of the follow-up to the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, additional reports by and about country compliance with core labor standards that are of concern to this study are available. As part of the “follow-up mechanism” to the ILO’s 1998 Declaration, countries that have not ratified the core conventions are required to report annually on their efforts to meet the declaration’s goals. These reports replace the periodic Article 19 reports on these conventions. WebMILS would draw on the annual compilation of these reports. In addition, the ILO director-general has issued the first cycle of “global reports” on the overall status in the world of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining (International Labour Organization, 2000), forced labor (International Labour Organization, 2001), child labor (International Labour Organization, 2002), and nondiscrimination in employment and remuneration (International Labour Organization, 2003). These reports draw on the governing body’s tripartite discussion and annual reviews to provide a dynamic global picture for each set of fundamental principles and rights. While these reports do not provide much detail on any given country, they do provide a general indication of the status of a given country, particularly where concerns have been raised with regard to a core labor standard. These reports are public- and web-accessible, and WebMILS would draw on them as appropriate. The Ad Hoc, Complaint-Driven Supervisory System Under Articles 24 and 26 of its constitution, the ILO has ad hoc mechanisms for addressing allegations of noncompliance against member states. Under Article 24, any national or international workers’ or employers’ organization may make a “representation” claiming that a given member state has failed to apply an ILO convention it has ratified. More serious Article 26 complaints regarding inadequate compliance with a ratified convention may be brought only by another ILO member government delegate that has ratified the same convention or by any worker or employer delegate to the International Labour Conference. Under both articles, allegations that a member government is not protecting freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively will be considered by the governing body, regardless of whether the country in question has ratified Convention Nos. 87 or 98.
OCR for page 41
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information If the governing body certifies that an Article 24 representation is receivable, it then goes either to an ad hoc committee of three members set up to examine the matter, or to the governing body’s Committee on Freedom of Association if the claim involves that issue. After an investigation, which may involve contacting the government concerned, that committee or the Ad Hoc Committee provides a report to the governing body, which may then decide to publish the initial representation, along with the committee’s conclusions and recommendations. If the matter remains unresolved, it may become a complaint under Article 26. The governing body may try to resolve the matter by sending a “direct contacts mission” from the director-general to consult with the government in question; if that does not work, it may refer Article 26 complaints to a commission of inquiry. After investigating the matter, the commission of inquiry writes a report of its findings for consideration by the governing body. As a source of information, the reports associated with Article 24 and 26 cases can be valuable for an assessment of compliance with core labor standards. These reports, including those by the Committee on Freedom of Association, ad hoc committees, and a commission of inquiry, are usually more pointed than the CEACR observations on country reports because they respond to complaints and address concrete assertions about workers’ rights violations. Together, the documents in the ILO databases from the regular and ad hoc supervisory mechanisms reflect the careful judgments of ILO delegates or independent experts on the status of a country’s compliance with international labor standards. It is important for any assessor to be sensitive to the limitations of these reports. Most important, aside from freedom of association, the coverage of these reports is mostly limited to countries that have ratified conventions. For the core labor standards, it is typically 140 to 150 countries. In the case of Article 24 and 26 complaints and cases before the Committee on Freedom of Association, there is an additional problem in that these cases are complaint driven and not representative of the full range of problems, either across countries or within them. For example, a country with a relatively strong union movement may find itself the subject of more complaints than a country with an authoritarian government and no unions able to file complaints. This problem has resulted in significant regional disparities in the number of complaints to the ILO that almost certainly do not reflect the actual distribution of violations. Approximately half of all complaints to the Committee on Freedom of Association, for example, involve Latin American countries, in part because Latin American unions
OCR for page 42
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information have become accustomed to using this mechanism. The ILO’s procedures are less familiar to many trade unionists and their allies in Asia and Africa, and, in some countries, unions are much weaker. Technical assistance from the ILO and from other agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Labor, in how to use the ILO complaint process could help remedy this. It is also important for any assessor to be sensitive to the use of language in ILO reports. Most ILO reports use guarded and somewhat opaque language. However, they follow a consistent, formulaic approach with code phrases that can be systematically analyzed. For example, there is escalating censure attached to phrases like “the committee notes that,” “the committee notes with concern that,” “the committee regrets that,” “the committee again regrets to note that,” “the committee deplores that,” and “the committee deeply deplores that” (as used in reports on Burma, where the military dictatorship had not provided information requested by the committee). As noted above, it also uses “special paragraphs” to identify egregious problems. ILO language can also be used to measure progress as when “the committee notes with satisfaction that …” a particular failure has been rectified. ILO language can similarly be used to identify lack of progress, as in “the committee therefore once again requests the government to take the necessary measures to amend the provisions which are in violation of the Convention,” or “the committee expresses the firm hope that the government will find the most appropriate formula for amending the above provision.” Article 24 and 26 representations and the reports of the Committee on Freedom of Association, ad hoc committees, and commissions of inquiry, which are available through the ILOLEX database, are important sources for WebMILS. ILO Umbrella Database on Labor Statistics The ILO umbrella database on labor statistics (LABORSTA) is the umbrella database of labor statistics collected by the ILO. It collects data on economic activity for more than 200 countries. Data are published in a series of 30 tables that present aggregated country-level data on: size of the economically active population, employment, unemployment,
OCR for page 43
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information hours of work, wages, labor cost, consumer prices, and occupational injuries and industrial disputes. Each of these subjects may be classified by age, gender, industrial sector, occupation, employment status, education, and economic activity. Data in LABORSTA are derived from national sources, including labor force surveys, household surveys, censuses, establishment surveys, and administrative records. The member state has the responsibility for submitting data to the ILO that are included in LABORSTA. Since 1984, the ILO Bureau of Statistics has produced methodological descriptions of the national statistics on all the subjects published in the ILO Yearbook of Labour Statistics. These appear in a series of volumes entitled Sources and Methods: Labour Statistics, which are available through the LABORSTA website.4 It is important to note that the ILO accepts national data unconditionally, regardless of the source of the data. There are several inherent problems of comparability of data both over time and across countries. Although international institutions, including the ILO, encourage the use of consistent global definitions, many countries continue to use their own national definitions when collecting labor market data, e.g., definition of the economically active labor force, unemployment, or the age of majority for children. For an example of these discrepancies, see Box 2-1. In addition, within a member state, definitions may change over time as data collection methods evolve or as economic conditions change. Moreover, data in LABORSTA may be based on official estimates that are based on survey data, administrative records, or a combination of sources. Finally, some countries do not report data for all categories or all years. Consequently, the database will be missing data as a consequence of the failure to report or the periodicity of reporting. The committee is fully cognizant of potential weaknesses in LABORSTA. Nevertheless, the committee considers LABORSTA as an important source of information for its database, while documenting the caveats as fully as possible. 4 The LABORSTA website is available at http://laborsta.ilo.org [October 8, 2003].
OCR for page 58
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information household surveys that ask “What was your income in pesos, dollars, or rupees?” and other surveys are detailed household income and expenditure surveys with careful checks and cross-checks. Finally, in many countries the data cannot be traced. Examples are such notations as: “Source: ILO” or “Source: Staff estimates.” In spite of inherent weaknesses in data generated from national statistical agencies, they may be the only source of national-level data on labor practices and policies, especially for data on government performance in endorsing and enforcing labor legislation. INFORMATION FROM NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS WebMILS would make use of information from a number of NGOs on various aspects of core labor standards. NGO reports vary considerably in the validity and reliability of data reported. In addition, many NGO reports are restricted in terms of time frame, geography, and industrial focus—with some reports focusing on one manufacturing facility in one city for one time period. Many NGOs also have strong political orientations that may introduce a selection bias in the data that are published. However, NGO reports may provide early warning of an emerging compliance problem or may provide more detailed information than other sources. As a result of the potential for selection or other bias, NGO reports should be used primarily to supplement official sources and should be cross-checked with other sources. NGOs with Ongoing Broad or Global Coverage International Confederation of Free Trade Unions The Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) is useful for information on violations of freedom of association, particularly employer discrimination against and government repression of union organizers.10 The report contains data for approximately 150 countries that are submitted through its Survey of Violations. It is both complaint driven and anecdotal and does 10 These surveys are available at: http://www.icftu.org [October 14, 2003].
OCR for page 59
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information not present information on resolutions of labor disputes. Most information included in the annual survey is drawn from national and local labor unions and thus may reflect any biases inherent in the structure of those unions. For example, an International Labour Rights fund report indicates that some union leaders in Mexico sexually harass and discriminate against women (International Labour Rights Fund, 2003). The ICFTU also submits selected country reports to the WTO that review the status of all four core labor standards.11 The countries covered are those that are being reviewed by the WTO under its Trade Policy Review Mechanism, which eventually should cover all WTO members. The ICFTU is also a source of many submissions to the ILO, including comments on the country reports submitted under the Declaration follow-up mechanism. Freedom House Freedom House conducts an annual survey that evaluates the political rights and civil liberties in 192 nations. The survey is based on a summation of a subjective rating of a checklist of 8 political rights and 14 civil liberties. Each political right and civil liberty is rated on a scale of 0 to 4 and scores for each nation are obtained by summing the ratings. Internal consistency checks are applied to political rights and civil liberty scores. Finally, ratings scores for both political rights and civil liberties are aggregated on a scale of 1 to 7. This survey has been conducted since 1989 and is an extension of Freedom House activities that began in 1955. A panel of experienced experts makes assessments of individual nations, although no information is provided on interrater reliability or the overall reliability of the scales. Although the Freedom House scores are not without problems, the committee considers them for inclusion in WebMILS as an associated factor because of the importance of democratic institutions in protecting the core labor standards, particularly freedom of association. In addition, although the Freedom House reports do not treat labor rights issues systematically or in much depth, some of the individual country chapters include qualitative information on labor rights that may be useful as a supplement to other sources. 11 These reports are available at http://www.icftu.org [October 14, 2003].
OCR for page 60
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information Human Rights Watch Through examination of press and other documents, legal analysis, intensive in-country interviews with government officials, nongovernmental actors, and victims of human rights abuses, and a rigorous internal editing process, Human Rights Watch (HRW) produces an annual report on human rights in roughly 70 countries. The HRW’s annual report devotes only infrequent attention to workers’ rights, but it also occasionally conducts in-depth country reports on labor rights issues. For example, recent studies have dealt with child labor in U.S. agriculture, discrimination against women in Guatemalan maquila factories, and freedom of association and child labor in the banana industry in Ecuador (Human Rights Watch, 2000, 2002a, 2002b). These reports may be more valuable for thorough information and analysis than HRW’s annual report. Lawyers Committee for Human Rights The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (LCHR) is a New York-based NGO that was a founding member of the Fair Labor Association (see Chapter 3). The organization is creating a Workers Rights Information Project aimed at corporate performance around the world. It explains:12 … the goal of this multi-year project is to create a system that will provide a variety of users with access to information that they can use to assess corporate compliance with human rights standard[s]…. The project will emphasize measurable criteria on the status of working conditions, so that different situations can be fairly compared and so that progress (or decline) can be meaningfully tracked over time. In addition to distributing what is already known, and consistently highlighting what is not (on a case-by-case basis), the project will include a major emphasis on creating and supporting initiatives for more extensive disclosure than exists today, both through voluntary actions and through law. 12 See the LCHR workers rights website at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/workers_rights/workers_rights.htm [February 27, 2004].
OCR for page 61
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information Obviously, however, this database will not provide systematic information on conditions at the country level, and it should only be used as a supplement to other sources. The LCHR also occasionally publishes brief reports on workers’ rights in particular countries, including Cambodia, China, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Jordan, and South Korea, which are available online.13 Ad Hoc NGO Reports Ad hoc reports from NGOs are highly variable in coverage, quality, and approach. Global Alliance for Workers and Communities The Global Alliance for Workers and Communities is a consortium including the World Bank, St. John’s and Pennsylvania State Universities, Nike, and the Gap, Inc., with associated organizations in Asia. Founded in 1999, the program is managed by the International Youth Federation (IYF), which is an NGO funded by corporations and foundations. The Global Alliance has projects to assess workers’ needs and provide training for managers to meet workers’ needs at Nike and Gap supplier factories in China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.14 Global Alliance researchers investigate general working conditions, focusing especially on health and safety and sexual harassment. However, in the course of investigating workers’ needs, the organization produces information on compliance with international labor standards. The Global Alliance uses carefully prepared scripts for interviewers to explain what they are doing and detailed questions to draw out workers’ expression of their needs. The result is one of the few sources of detailed survey information produced by the NGO community, but its information comes from plants owned by multinationals or their subcontractors and thus is not representative of conditions in the country. 13 See the LCHR workers rights website at http://www.lchr.org/workers_rights/workers_rights.htm [October 14, 2003]. 14 See the Global Alliance website at http://www.theglobalalliance.org [October 14, 2003].
OCR for page 62
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information International Labor Rights Fund The Washington, DC-based International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) produces occasional country reports, such as studies of child labor in the Ivory Coast and discrimination against women in Kenya.15 In addition, ILRF collects a great deal of specific information for GSP petitions, NAALC complaints, and civil lawsuits on behalf of workers’ rights. The ILRF has been a lead petitioner in GSP cases involving Guatemala, Colombia, Chile, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka and it was the first NGO to use the NAALC complaint process for Mexico-based cases. The ILRF is serving as plaintiffs’ counsel in civil lawsuits against companies implicated in workers’ rights violations in Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Burma. National Labor Committee Based in New York City, the National Labor Committee (NLC) is an advocacy group dealing with sweatshop conditions in factories exporting low-skilled labor-intensive products to the U.S. market. It organizes delegations of workers and investigators from the United States to visit foreign countries and sponsors speaking tours by foreign workers in the United States. The NLC employs what it calls a “high profile campaign style,” aggressively using the media to publicize working conditions and to bring pressure on U.S. companies that subcontract with supplier firms abroad.16 The NLC has carried out extensive firm-focused reporting on Wal-Mart, Walt Disney Company, Nike, Liz Claiborne, Ralph Lauren and, in one of its best-known media campaigns, on clothes carrying the Kathie Lee Gifford label. NLC country reports have covered Bangladesh, Burma, China, Colombia, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Most of the country reports have been short, punchy, popular-style calls to action by readers—with a tone of exposé rather than systematic assessment—listing factory locations by name and identifying the U.S. retailers they supply. 15 For these reports and others that follow, see the ILRF website at http://www.laborrights.org [October 14, 2003]. 16 See the NLC website at http://www.nlcnet.org [October 14, 2003].
OCR for page 63
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information Foreign NGOs and Websites Based in London, Amnesty International is the best known and most often cited non-U.S. NGO. The discussion of HRW above applies equally to Amnesty International’s reporting on worker rights. Both groups’ reports should be scrutinized for workers’ rights information, with the caveat that they are haphazard in covering this field.17 Solidar is a European NGO that also deals with labor rights issues.18 Formerly named International Workers Aid (renamed Solidar in 1995) this Brussels-based organization is an alliance of European NGOs and trade unions that focuses on social justice, usually devoting attention to the relationship between the European Union and developing countries. Solidar publishes regular “International Updates” that consist largely of news clips on trade and labor standards, with special attention to the role of the European Union in the WTO. The Updates provide occasional links to more substantive workers’ rights reports. Several NGOs report on worker and human rights in Asia. The China Labour Bulletin19 and Human Rights in China20 are just two of several NGOs that are focused on China. NGOs working on China exhibit notable factionalism, requiring expert knowledge to sort through the players and their biases. The two groups noted here produce regular, well-documented reports on labor rights in China. A similar effort by a new NGO called Global Standards focuses on Vietnam.21 The Hong Kong-based Asia Monitor Resource Centre, reporting on worker rights in the Asia-Pacific region for more than a quarter century, produces the quarterly Asia Labour Update.22 Recent research and reporting efforts focus on comparative labor law in Asia-Pacific countries, on layoffs in China’s special economic zones, on women workers in Asian EPZs, on the effect of transnational corporations’ subcontracting on workers, on transnational subcontracting and social development, on migrant workers in Southern China, and on monitoring workers’ conditions and workers’ rights in the sports shoe, garment, and toy industries. 17 See the Amnesty International website at http://www.amnesty.org [October 14, 2003]. 18 See the Solidar website at http://www.solidar.org/ [October 14, 2003]. 19 See the website at http://iso.china-labour.org.hk/iso/ [October 14, 2003]. 20 See the website at http://iso.hrichina.org:8151/iso/ [October 14, 2003]. 21 See the website at http://www.global-standards.com/ [October 14, 2003]. 22 See the AMRC website at http://www.amrc.org.hk [October 14, 2003].
OCR for page 64
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information Established in 1987, the London-based International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR) produces a quarterly journal called International Union Rights that covers labor rights issues around the world.23 It is particularly good in its coverage of African countries, which otherwise generally get much less attention than other developing country regions. ICTUR recently created an International Commission for Labour Rights to undertake country-specific research and reporting projects in years ahead.24 Brazilian trade union researchers produce an independent bimonthly report called Correio Sindical Mercosur that monitors worker rights developments in the four Mercosur countries—Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay—plus information on Chile, Peru, and other Mercosur associates. In January 2002, with support from several North American unions and trade union federations, this group added an English edition, titled Mercosur Union Post, available by e-mail.25 Based in Geneva, the Global Unions website is a project of global union federations (formerly called International Trade Secretariats) affiliated with the ICFTU. It provides regular, updated reports on events within sectors of industry and within specific multinational corporations.26 Based in New Delhi, the Global March Against Child Labor produces the Status Report on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.27 Academic Research Scholars who work on international labor issues are often underused as a resource for assessing countries’ compliance with core labor standards. The reporting organizations discussed above, especially governmental and international institutions, look almost exclusively at formal economic sources of information. While these sources are centrally important, a narrow focus may miss rich information sources and analyses produced by scholars with deep country and regional expertise. Two sources created by Nils Gleditsch and Kevin Bales, respectively, are proposed for inclusion in WebMILS. At the Euroconference in Uppsala, 23 See the ICTUR website at http://www.ictur.labournet.org/ [October 14, 2003]. 24 See the information at http://www.labourcommission.org/ [October 14, 2003]. 25 See the website at http://www.sindicatomercosul.com.br/ [October 14, 2003]. 26 See the website at http://www.global-unions.org/ [October 14, 2003]. 27 See the website at http://globalmarch.org/index.php [October 14, 2003].
OCR for page 65
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information Gleditsch et al. (2001) presented a paper that provides information on the level of conflict in countries, one of the associated factors identified as important by the committee. Bales has produced global estimates of the number of slaves and the scale of human trafficking (Bales, 2002). Ad hoc but detailed research on labor standards issues can also be found from a variety of other academic sources and may be useful as supplementary information. For example, there is extensive country-specific research on labor issues in the programs of such major academic congresses as the Industrial Relations Research Association (and its international counterpart, the International Industrial Relations Association), the American Political Science Association, the Latin American Studies Association, the American Sociological Association, and the Academic Consortium on International Trade. Many of the top universities and research institutions have diverse investigators from the fields of economics, industrial relations, political science, comparative law, planning, sociology and other fields who have extensive experience doing on-the-ground quantitative and qualitative work on labor standards in many countries and regions. Researchers across these fields, from different institutions, collaborate to produce significant contributions to labor issues. University researchers also usually have valuable networks of foreign colleagues who bring their own national expertise to joint research and writing projects. Scholarly journals contain a growing number of articles on countries and regions that can contribute to assessing countries’ compliance with international labor standards. To give just one example, Weisband and Colvin (2000) have compiled a statistical representation of labor rights violations on the basis of an analysis of ICFTU reports over a 13-year period, leading to important questions of whether workers’ rights were violated more frequently in the Americas than elsewhere in the world, or whether workers’ rights violations were reported more frequently in the Americas than elsewhere in the world. But the journals in which such kinds of articles are likely to appear—including Human Rights Quarterly, Comparative Labor Law and Policy Journal, International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations, and any one of a dozen more high-quality law journals devoted to global labor issues—are rarely cited by the reporting bodies reviewed here.
OCR for page 66
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information Conclusions Regarding Sources of Information The report has relied heavily on national level data compiled by international agencies. It is essential to note that the ILO and other international agencies collate data provided by national statistical offices. They do not assess the quality of these data or reconcile differences in extent of coverage, nor do they edit the data and eliminate or question often egregious inconsistencies. It is well known among researchers that in most countries the data are quite unreliable, reflecting both the weakness in the system of collection and in the lack of ability of the national statistical offices to evaluate the consistency of the information gathered and to ask for clarifications in firm, household, and labor force surveys. If the country data are of dubious value, so are the data compiled from them by the international agencies. There is also a major issue in the relevance of the data that are presented. Almost all of the current series reflect conditions in the higher-income modern sector of developing countries, including large manufacturing firms, government agencies, and large privately owned firms in services. But these sectors typically account for much less than half of a country’s employment, in some cases less than 15 percent. Thus, the sectors for which data are available are, in many cases, completely unrepresentative of the economies being considered, which are largely rural and agricultural. This problem is even worse in the case of some qualitative data that focus on the performance of multinational corporations in poor countries which, in all but a few countries, account for less than 1 percent of total employment. Thus, even if the “A,” “B,” and “C” indicators discussed in Chapters 4-8 were correctly measured in formal sector firms, large firms, and multinational firms, which is unlikely, they represent only a small percentage of economic activity. The peer review process in academic publishing provides a guarantee of quality for these sources that may not be found in trade union, NGO, and government reporting. At the same time, however, the peer review process has the downside of delaying publication, so that data are often more than a year old. It is difficult to keep complete track of all academic sources and publications touching on international labor rights. A project at the University of Michigan is undertaking such an initiative.28 But it would be very worthwhile for any assessment effort to try to include input from divided disciplines across universities and research institutions. 28 See the website at http://www.ilir.umich.edu/lagn/ [October 14, 2003].
OCR for page 67
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information REFERENCES Advisory Committee on Labor Diplomacy. (2000). A world of decent work: Labor diplomacy for the new century. Report of the Advisory Committee on Labor Diplomacy to the Secretary of State and the President of the United States. Available: http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/labor/acld_report/acld_toc.html [October 10, 2003]. Bales, K. (2002, July). International labor standards: Quality of information and measures in progress in combating forced labor. 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 [October 14, 2003]. Bolle, M.J. (2000). China and the WTO: Labor issues. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. Available: http://www.cnie.org/nle/crsreports/international/inter-36.pdf [October 14, 2003]. Compa, L. (2002, July). 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 [October 14, 2003]. Gleditsch, N.P., Wallensteen, P., Eriksson, M., Sollenberg, M., and Strand, H. (2001, June). Armed conflict 1946-2000: A new dataset. Paper presented at the Euroconference on Identifying Wars: Systemic Conflict Research and its Utility in Conflict Resolution and Prevention, Uppsala, Sweden. Available: http://www.pcr.uu.se/conferenses/Euroconference/nilspetterpapper.pdf [October 14, 2003]. Human Rights Watch. (2000). Fingers to the bone: United States failure to protect child farmworkers. New York, NY: Author. Available: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2000/frmwrkr/ [October 14, 2003]. Human Rights Watch. (2002a). From the household to the factory: Sex discrimination in the Guatemala labor force. New York, NY: Author. Available: http://hrw.org/reports/2002/guat/ [October 14, 2003]. Human Rights Watch. (2002b). Tainted harvest: Child labor and obstacles to organizing on Ecuador’s banana plantations. New York, NY: Author. Available: http://hrw.org/reports/2002/ecuador/ [October 14, 2003]. International Labour Organization. (2000). Your voice at work: Global report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Geneva: International Labour Office. Available: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/decl/publ/reports/index.htm [October 14, 2003]. International Labour Organization. (2001). Stopping forced labor: Global report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Geneva: International Labour Office. Available: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/decl/publ/reports/index.htm [October 14, 2003]. International Labour Organization. (2002). A future without child labor: Global report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Geneva: International Labour Office. Available: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/decl/publ/reports/index.htm [October 14, 2003].
OCR for page 68
Monitoring International Labor Standards: Techniques and Sources of Information International Labour Organization. (2003). Time for equality at work: Global report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Geneva: International Labour Office. Available: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/decl/publ/reports/index.htm [October 14, 2003]. International Labour Rights Fund. (2003). A report on sexual harassment in the workplace in Mexico. Washington, DC: Author. Available: http://www.laborrights.org/ [September 23, 2003]. Manyin, M., Lum, L., McHugh, L.B., Nguyen, P.K., and Zeldin, W. (2001). Vietnam’s labor rights regime: An assessment. (Congressional Research Service Report). Washington, DC: Penny Hill Press. Available: http://www.pennyhill.com/labor/rl30896.html [October 9, 2003]. U.N. Verification Mission in Guatemala. (2002, January 18). Informe de MINUGUA para el grupo consultivo sobre Guatemala. Available: http://www.minugua.guate.net/Informes/OTROS%20INF/OTROSINFO.htm [October 14, 2003]. U.S. Department of Labor. (1996). The apparel industry and codes of conduct: A solution to the international child labor problem? Washington, DC: Bureau of International Labor Affairs. Available: http://www.dol.gov/ilab/media/reports/iclp/apparel/main.htm [June 23, 2003]. Weisband, E., and Colvin, C.J. (2000). An empirical analysis of international confederation of free trade unions annual surveys. Human Rights Quarterly, 22(1), 167-186. World Bank. (2003). Core labor standards toolkit—Diagnosing core labor standards in the CAS. Available: http://wbln0018.worldbank.org/HDNet/HDdocs.nsf/d5135ecbf351de6852566a90069b8b6/98df7256b3dd946185256946006b5256?OpenDocument [October 9, 2003]. Zimmerman, J.M. (1991). The Overseas Private Investment Corporation and worker rights: The loss of role models for employment standards in the foreign workplace. Hastings International and Comparative Law Review, 14, 603-609.
Representative terms from entire chapter: