Arab Spring
In 2010, the first of a series of protests and uprisings that would sweep across several countries took place. The Arab Spring, as it became known, began in Tunisia and spread to fellow nations such as Egypt and Libya. The purpose of this was to restructure these governments and bring about cultural liberation. In Tunisia and Egypt, uprisings successfully overthrew the government. With the old regimes dismantled, people believed that democracy would prosper in the region. In Libya specifically, citizens overthrew the government, causing the state to devolve into an ongoing civil war. Other states have seen more positive results.

No Absolute Victories

Many have considered Tunisia successful in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. In 2013, Tunisia passed a law with the intent of exposing government abuse and holding the abusers accountable. It founded the Truth and Dignity Commission in order to handle such cases by 2014. Over the course of four years, the commission opened 62,720 cases and held 49,654 private interviews. Finally, in May 2019, the commission began passing cases through 13 special courts.

However, Tunisia’s commission was not the first of its kind. It followed in the footsteps of several others before it, as seen in Chile and South Africa. When the commission’s motion to review government abuse cases ended, several key figures returned to power in 2014. People construed this as a step backward from the Arab Spring with the return of earlier members of government resulting in a political atmosphere hostile to past reflection. While government abuses are less common than they were prior to 2010, such societal issues continue to occur. Unreformed laws from the old regime continue to jail vulnerable people without free-speech protections.

Poverty in Conflict

Poverty and unequal distribution of employment opportunities helped precipitate the uprisings of the Arab Spring. The income gap across the population was so severe that poverty all but completely swallowed up the middle class. Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor who had endured constant harassment from law enforcement and struggled to make a livable wage, set himself on fire in front of the governor’s offices. This act brought the Arab Spring across Tunisia and immortalized Bouazizi as a symbol of the revolution.

In the case of the Arab Spring, conflict was a means for the people to bring about the changes they wanted to see in their countries. However, even when the long-term consequences were to the people’s benefit, the immediate aftermath of the uprising had its issues. Poverty makes an area more susceptible to conflict and war by undermining and weakening government institutions, overloading welfare services and diminishing economic performance. When conflict breaks out, the poor are often most vulnerable. Welfare goods and services often go toward the war effort, causing agriculture to suffer as a result of land destruction and security measures for protecting the elite.

In December 2010, a largely impoverished population overthrew the Tunisian government in a violent conflict that killed 338 people. The people dismantled the government, leading to the dissolution of political police and the relinquishing of assets back to the people. Despite this occurrence, the Tunisian people faced an uphill battle, with the need to restore and maintain normalcy remaining.

The International Labour Organization (ILO)

The International Labour Organization (ILO) emerged in 1919 in a partnership effort to set labor standards and develop policies intended to help people work in respectable conditions. Upon identifying the income gap in Tunisia as a large contributor to starting Arab Spring, the ILO works closely with local organizations. It strives to provide more lucrative work opportunities for the people. Specifically, the ILO initiated a project that will install a covered market in Sidi Bouzid, the sight of Bouazizi’s self-immolation. This program will ensure that vendors may gather to sell their wares in better conditions.

The ILO partnered with the E.U. to create the Programme to Support the Development of Underprivileged Areas (AZD), which teaches locals how to farm. The program has educated almost 100 people to prune and graft fruit trees, as well as to transport their crops to the market effectively. This organization does not limit itself to agriculture; the ILO serves also in teaching technical skills to women. As a result, increased numbers of women have the ability to self-provide and are becoming empowered in society.

Work programs will not solve all of the issues Tunisia’s been grappling with for the past decade. The country must still address issues of government corruption, regional stability and the rate of poverty. In the meantime, however, such programs help in returning some of the power back to the people – another holdover perhaps, from the Arab Spring.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Child LaborChild labor in Pakistan continues to be a reality faced by many Pakistani children. Deprived of the opportunity to study like most other children, many are forced into work from an early age. Although Pakistan’s Employment of Children Act 1991 addresses this issue, the country continues to have difficulties implementing the legislation.

Child Labor in Pakistan

According to a 2018 report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Pakistan has a big problem with child labor: an estimated 12 million children work in the country. Many of these children have limited educational opportunities. One of the most common jobs that these children are forced to do is domestic servitude, which requires children to serve the owners of the house. These child laborers may be forced to work from dawn to dusk, fed with leftovers and allowed to be punished in different ways. As a result of this form of labor, children are deprived of healthcare and education.

Since 2016, a project called Pakistan Decent Work Country Programme has operated in Pakistan. The organization assists the Pakistani government in eliminating the worst forms of forced labor for children. However, a new campaign is targeting attention on domestic child labor in Pakistan.

End Child Domestic Labor Campaign

In Pakistan, it is illegal to employ children under the age of 18 in factories. Until recently, the country lacked a law prohibiting children from working at home in most states. However, in June, a campaign was launched by Idare-e-Taleem-o-Asgahi (ITA) called End Child Domestic Labor. The campaign consists of 20 rights-based Pakistani organizations and suggests that children between 10 and 18 years of age belonging to any economic stratum be treated the same. In short, it argues that child abuse occurring through domestic labor must end. Accordingly, the campaign proposed a constitutional amendment that would prohibit all children under the age of 16 from engaging in any type of work.

Along with the campaign, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has developed the following strategies to address child labor in Pakistan:

  1. Strengthen the capacity of tripartite constituents to address child and bonded labor in the rural economy.
  2. Raise awareness in rural communities about the importance of ending child labor and bonded labor.
  3. Support federal and provincial authorities to improve their capacities in data collection and analysis.
  4. Promote inter-agency cooperation, partnership and learning to improve knowledge sharing and advocacy.
  5. Support ILO constituents to develop a community system for monitoring children and bonded labor.

New Law Bans Child Labor in Pakistan

On Aug. 6, 2020, Pakistan banned child domestic labor for the first time, passing an amendment that makes it illegal for children to participate in domestic labor. The government recognized the consequences of this labor, such as trauma and abuse, among young domestic workers.

The new law was implemented in response to the death of Zohra Shah, an 8-year-old girl and domestic worker who was brutally beaten and died. At the same time, Shah is not the only victim of abuse as a result of child labor in Pakistan. Among the other victims is 16-year-old Uzma Bibi, who was beaten. In addition, 10-year-old Tayyaba Quein was abused, making this a serious problem for the country. Accordingly, the Federal Minister of Human Rights announced that the cabinet’s decision will now include child domestic labor under the Employment of Children Act 1991.

The new law marks a change in Pakistan, where children will have access to education and a better life, without mistreatment or abuse. At the same time, it takes a step toward a better quality of life for all minors who are forced to work. This is and will be a great step for children’s rights and an example for other countries.

Juliet Quintero
Photo: Flickr

5 Most Hazardous IndustriesAmong the negative effects of living in a low-income country is the inadequacy of workplace safety. Regulations and monitoring organizations to protect workers might be absent. Without the resources for such programs, many developing nations and their citizens suffer high rates of work-related illness, accidents and death caused by unsafe workplaces.

Studies of occupational risk from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Tampere University in Finland show that workers in low and lower-middle income countries have a higher risk of falling sick or dying as a result of their occupation than workers in high-income countries. Up to 92 percent of all global workplace fatalities are reported in low-income countries. One example is the fatality rate of Myanmar, at 25 deaths per 100,000 workers, which is 30 times higher than the United Kindom, at 0.83 per 100,000.

This disparity is driven by a lack of occupational health services and monitoring in low-income countries. The risk becomes more pronounced within the following five most hazardous industries, which account for the majority of work-related harm.

5 Most Hazardous Industries

  1. Mining – Mining presents a great risk to workers and holds the highest share of work-related fatal injuries. In addition to the risk of cave-ins in underground mining operations, miners are often exposed to pollutants. These include asbestos, metal and silica dust, and radioactive waste. Exposure makes workers prone to respiratory diseases and lung cancers. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other respiratory diseases caused by the inhalation of dust, vapors, gases and fumes are the third largest cause of occupational fatalities overall.
  2. Construction – Work-related deaths in the construction industry make up about 30 percent of annual workplace fatalities. The ILO has determined that the risk of fatal injury to construction workers in low-income countries is three to six times higher than in more developed economies. Falls are the greatest threat to workers in the industry, but heavy machinery and electrocution also present a significant risk. Construction workers frequently face exposure to carcinogens and toxins like asbestos, resulting in long-term illnesses and disability.
  3. Agriculture – The agricultural industry makes up half of all global employment. The ILO estimates that at least 170,000 agricultural workers are killed per year in work-related accidents. Accidents often involve farming or fishing equipment, drowning, tree falls or agrochemical poisonings. Due to the number of workers employed in the industry and the frequency of informal farm work in low-income countries, injuries and fatalities in agriculture are likely to be underreported.
  4. Transportation – Most cases of occupational injuries occur in transportation-related events. Transportation is the top cause of workplace fatalities in the United States, and transportation workers are among the top five most frequently injured. Though often understudied, injuries and crashes among transport workers in countries like China have drawn attention, with one driver badly injured or killed every 2.5 days in Shanghai.
  5. Ship-breaking – The ship-breaking industry, often informal or illegal, is a growing concern for occupational safety monitors. Demolition involves frequent exposure to harmful chemicals, carcinogens, welding fumes and asbestos. The ILO reports the informality of the industry as its greatest threat to workers, saying: “Inadequate safety controls, badly monitored work operations and high risk of explosions create very dangerous work situations.” In Bangladesh, experts fear that environmental contamination from job sites threatens the health of neighboring communities.

A Trend Toward Safer Working Conditions

A growing number of countries have embraced efforts to increase regulation and monitoring of work conditions since the 1990s. Safety recommendations and training from the ILO have been implemented, with 134 nations ratifying the Labor Inspection Convention in 2005. However, regulation can’t come fast enough. In 2013, only 7 percent of international labor conventions had been passed in Asia, where the majority of injuries occur.

Decreased rates of workplace injury and fatal accidents over the last two decades are an encouraging sign that safety efforts are paying off in many developing nations. The number of people killed as a result of accidental occupational incidents in low-income countries dropped by 43 percent between 1996 and 2016. Experts note this decrease is lower than in high-income countries and that the five most hazardous industries still disproportionately burden these areas.

– Marissa Field
Photo: Flickr

The International Labor Organization (ILO) is exploring what the future of work will look like around the world.

ILO hosted a global dialogue in early April to discuss the future of work and how various aspects of today’s world, such as climate change, technological innovation and shifts in poverty, affect labor. In addition, the Leaders Forum of the annual ILO conference will focus on the future of work. The conference is scheduled for June 5-17, 2017.

The ILO has seven initiatives to implement by 2019 to celebrate its 100-year anniversary. The Director-General set these initiatives in 2013, to plan for challenges that face international labor. These include the Future of Work Initiative, the End to Poverty Initiative, the Women at Work Initiative, the Green Initiative, the Standards Initiative, the Enterprises Initiative and the Governance Initiative.

The Future of Work Initiative will examine trends and issues that explore the challenges the workforce will face over the next century. The End to Poverty Initiative will help implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Women at Work Initiative will work toward the equality of women in the workplace. The Green Initiative will focus on environmentally sustainable employment. The Standards Initiative will focus on revising international labor standards. The Enterprises Initiative will work with enterprises in the private sector in all regions of the world. The Governance Initiative will reform the ILO leadership structure, the International Labour Conference, regional meetings and evaluate the 2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization

Formed in 1919 as part of the Treaty of Versailles, ILO is founded on the values of social justice and human rights. The organization’s first members included Belgium, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S. The organization, originally affiliated with the League of Nations, became a part of the first specialized agency of the U.N. in 1946. Today, the organization has 187 member states.

In 2017, the ILO is putting together a High-Level Commission on the future of work. In 2018, the commission is scheduled to publish a report and recommendations. At the 2019 ILO Conference, member states may adopt a Centenary Declaration.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

The youth unemployment rate in developing countries does not reflect the same trends as in developed economies. Increasing education and improving job quality are proven solutions to this trend.

Globally, youth employment rates have increased since 2012. However, the progress does not seem to be reflected in developing countries.

“The jobless rate…increased in most of Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East and North Africa,” as compared to the EU, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the International Labour Organization, global youth unemployment has plateaued from 2009 to present, hovering around 13 percent. Unsurprisingly, the countries with the highest rates include North Africa (at 30.5 percent, 2014 expected) and the Middle East (at 28.2 percent, 2014 expected) and those rates are actually on the decline.

The most recent report done by the ILO, Global Employment Trends for Youth 2015, argues that the youth markets in developing countries suffer from instability and structural issues.

The report highlights a lack of participation in education, poor quality of jobs and gender gaps as key issues that need reform.

Most importantly, the report places an emphasis on education and training opportunities for youth.

“Ideally, these [findings] will shape future investments in youth employment as countries continue to prioritize youth in their national policy agendas,” says the ILO.

The ILO calls for macroeconomic policies and fiscal incentives that support employment, as well as demand-side interventions, among numerous other concrete solutions.

Yellowwood, an independent brand consultancy in South Africa, has started a project to confront local youth employment challenges. Called Harambee, the project prepares first-time employees for work through an intensive bridging program that leads to permanent jobs.

“Harambee provides a model for a long-term solution to youth unemployment, by showing the importance of business and government working together to address the problem.”

Using Harambee as an example, both developing governments and businesses should work together to find solutions to the youth unemployment crisis.

Ashley Tressel

Sources: VOA News, ILO 1, ILO 2, McKinsey On Society
Photo: Flickr

A recent report by the International Labor Organization shows that only one-fourth of the world’s workers have stable contracts. The organization’s main annual report covers more than 180 countries and over 84 percent of the workforce.

The remaining three-quarters are employed informally, illegally, on a temporary basis, with short-term contracts, through unpaid family work or are self-employed, said the ILO’s World Employment Social Outlook 2015 report titled, “The Changing Nature of Jobs.”

Among workers who earn salaries, only 42 percent have permanent contracts.

The finding revealed a clear shift away from reliable full-time jobs to an increase in short-term contracts and irregular hours. The standard model of full-time work is becoming less and less representative of today’s global job market.

This worldwide trend of moving away from more permanent employment risks “perpetuating a vicious circle of weak global demand and slow job creation” that has strongly affected many countries since the 2008 crisis, ILO said. This decline of steady jobs is accompanied by soaring global unemployment. Last year, 201 million people found themselves jobless, 30 million more than before the 2008 financial crisis.

There is some variation between countries and income levels. In higher-income countries, more than three-quarters of workers are employed on permanent contracts, although less than two-thirds of those are full time, the ILO report said. In middle-income countries, almost 72 percent of workers are employed without a contract and in 13 low-income countries with available data, only 5.7 percent.

The permanence level of the employment is closely tied to income, with permanent workers earning significantly more than non-permanent ones, creating a nearly unbreakable cycle.

Many of these workers find themselves in dire poverty, with nearly one-fourth last year living on and supporting their families on less than $2 a day. What’s more, 10 percent of the global workforce lived on earnings of less than $1.25.

Nonetheless, these numbers show vast improvement from 20 years ago, when half of the world’s workers lived well below the $2 poverty line threshold.

“In some cases, non-standard forms of work can help people get a foothold into the job market. But these emerging trends are also a reflection of the widespread insecurity,” said Guy Ryder, ILO’s director-general.

– Alison Decker

Sources: The Guardian, Business Insider CNBC Business Standard
Photo: Flickr