Published on 1st December 2022
In November, the World Employment Confederation organised a webinar to share members best practices on the ratification of Convention 181, the international labour standard developed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to establish a framework for the registration, licensing, and effective regulation of private employment agencies.
Currently, only 37 countries across the world have ratified the Convention. There is still significant potential to increase that number. Therefore, the ILO started a campaign in May 2022 with the goal of reaching 45 countries having ratified the Convention by 2025. WEC’s webinar is part of the campaign’s efforts. As Michael Mwasikakata, the Head of the Labour Market Services for Transitions Unit at the ILO, explained, the industry can play a significant role in reaching out to governments in countries that have not yet ratified the Convention, hence supporting the ILO’s work.
At the webinar, three WEC members shared the challenges that their country or region currently face with regards to the ratification of Convention 181. APSO (South Africa) explained that the main obstacle was the government´s concern on their inability to fulfil the inspection and enforcement requirements that C181 establishes related to non-compliant private employment agencies due to a lack of public resources. Nevertheless, the country is operating with high quality standards thanks to the industry’s self-regulation and the legislative framework in line with the principles of Convention 181.
In Egypt, the ratification of C181 would be a golden opportunity to support recognition of the HR outsourcing within the new labour legislative framework that is currently under discussion, explained Target HR. In Latin America, the situation is more mixed with some opportunities appearing in Colombia and Brazil due to changes of governments while the situation is more challenging in countries where intermediation is less accepted as a form of work (Peru, Mexico). Finally, there are also countries like Chile where, despite the lack of ratification of Convention 181, its core principles are followed and embedded into existing legislation. It is therefore less of a priority for the government to make a formal ratification process.
Background and next steps
The World Employment Confederation has advocated for the ratification of Convention 181 since its adoption in 1997 as it sees it as the fundamental instrument to properly regulate the provision of private employment services. As Fred Van Haasteren, former WEC President and author of a book on Convention 181, puts it, the Convention is the “Constitution” for the sector and it is “essential to achieve the ILO’s goal of ‘Decent Work’”.
The ILO acknowledges that ratifying Convention 181 “helps ensure a fairer and more transparent labour market that affords workers opportunities to realize their full potential – while helping employers find workers with the skills and talent they need to grow, succeed, and remain competitive.” It creates more efficient intermediation and protects workers’ fundamental rights.
The World Employment Confederation will continue in 2023 to support the ILO’s ratification efforts by sharing the best practices of countries that have ratified and the challenges of countries who could be the next ones to adopt it formally.