Work standard

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Work standards "are defined as being governmentally adopted, enforced and therefore mandatory, workplace-oriented, comparable in purposes, and, in a sense adoptable by all the jurisdictions compared. The advantage of this definition is its purity; all of the standards included have similar characteristics. The disadvantage of a strict definition is the narrowness of its application. The stricter definition, the more difficult is to bring countries at different developmental levels into the analysis."(Kucera D., 2007, p. 30)

Core labour standards

An important breakthrough was in 1998 Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work whose adopted the International Labour Organization (ILo) it defined the four principles concerning the fundamental rights[1]:

  • Freedom of association and right to collective bargaining
  • The elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour
  • The effective abolition of child labour
  • The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation

"A year after the adoption of the ILO Declaration in 1998, the ILO incorporated Core Labour Standards (CLS), together with other labour rights, as one of its four pillars of its Decent Work Agenda (DWA). The other three pillars are employment creation and enterprise development, social protection, and governance and social dialogue.With the support of trade unions, the ILO has sought to obtain official recognition for the DWA by the highest bodies of the UN, which occurred when the 2005 General Assembly adopted a resolution expressing support for "full and productive employment and decent work for all … as part of our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals". The UN's Economic and Social Council elaborated on this commitment in 2006, by developing a toolkit to promote DW. The UN's Chief Executive Board for Coordination, chaired by the Secretary General, adopted a Toolkit for Mainstreaming Employment and Decent Work in April 2007."(Bakvis, P., & McCoy, M., 2008, p. 2)

The idea of international work standards

"International labour standards are intended to be universal in nature, i.e. applicable to and capable of attainment by countries with very different social structures and at all stages of industrial development. To attain this objective, standards should be flexible rather than rigid, but must at the same time set meaningful targets for social development."(International Labour Organization 1998, p. 34)

Main components of the standards

The standards set forth in U.S. trade law include[2]:

  • freedom of association
  • the right to organize and bargain collectively
  • freedom from forced labor
  • minimum age for employment
  • acceptable conditions of work, including a minimum wage, limitations on hours of work, and occupational safety and health rights in the workplace


  1. Bakvis, P., & McCoy, M. (2008), p. 1
  2. Brown, D. K., Deardorff, A. V., & Stern, R. M. (1996), p. 9

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Author: Katarzyna Kraj