Effective Social Dialogue Is Key To Better Wages, Working Conditions, ILO Says

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The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said that effective social dialogue is a key means to promote better wages and working conditions, pointing out that when it fails, work stoppages may ensue.

ILO data show that this has happened at least 44 thousand times since 2010.

Effective social dialogue is a means to promote better wages and working conditions. Therefore, it is one of the main pillars of decent work. Social dialogue includes negotiations, consultations and exchange of information between workers, employers and governments. It also covers collective bargaining and mechanisms of dispute prevention and resolution.

However, disputes can’t always be prevented. Sometimes, they may even result in work stoppages.

ILO data give an idea of how often this happens.

ILO data show that since 2010 there have been at least 44’000 work stoppages in the world.

This figure represents the lower bound for the actual number of work stoppages around the world since 2010. Indeed, we have data for only 56 countries (less than a third of the world’s countries). What is more, even for countries with data, data may not cover all economic activities and all geographic areas.

Thus, the actual number of work stoppages in the world since 2010 could be far greater than 44’000.

In 18 out of the 44 countries with data on work stoppages by sector, the highest share of stoppages took place in manufacturing. In fact, in Estonia, Mauritius and Thailand all of the reported work stoppages happened in manufacturing.

Furthermore, all of the reported strikes and lockouts were in construction in Panama and the Seychelles, in education in Lithuania, and in mining in the Russian Federation. 

The characteristics and issues related to work stoppages make it a very problematic field of labour statistics. In fact, there are several challenges to the production of reliable, timely and comparable statistics on strikes and lockouts, such as:

– the impact of national legislation in the concepts and methods used to collect data,

– political and social circumstances which make it hard in some cases to get information on work stoppages,

– the variety of possible data sources which could damage data consistency and comparability,

– the coverage of the statistics which is often less than comprehensive (nationwide statistics covering all economic activities, all types of workers and all labour disputes are difficult to produce),

– the differences in concepts and definitions used which further hinder data consistency. In particular, the criteria established to consider work stoppages as such will greatly influence the figures (minimum time threshold for the stoppage, criteria used to consider a work stoppage as a single event, type of stoppages covered, etc.).

Moreover, where data do exist, it is challenging to interpret them. Work stoppages are the failure of social dialogue, but they are also evidence that workers and employers can express their grievances and demands.

The ILO is a leading actor in the field of work stoppages statistics.

In spite of the difficulties mentioned above, the ILO Department of Statistics has been compiling statistics on strikes and lockouts for many decades.

In fact, strikes and lockouts data were published in the very first issue of the ILO Yearbook of Labour Statistics, back in 1936!.

Rosina is an Economist in the Data Production and Analysis Unit of the ILO Department of Statistics. She is the focal point on SDG labour market indicators, a recurrent author for Spotlight on Work Statistics and is passionate about inequality and gender issues.

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