International Labour Issues

The Department of Jobs and Small Business manages Australia's engagement with the International Labour Organization (ILO), a specialised agency of the United Nations, on international labour issues. Australia is also a member of the ILO Governing Body, which is the ILO’s key policy-making body that provides guidance to the ILO and its Director-General.

The department is responsible for:

  • managing the Australian Government’s reporting requirements to meet its obligations under ratified ILO Conventions
  • considering ratification of identified ILO Conventions as and when required by the Government
  • engaging in Australia’s technical aid assistance to ILO activities in the Asia-Pacific region, including through the Australian-ILO Partnership Agreement 2010-15
  • providing advice to the Australian Government on a range of international labour issues, including in trade matters
  • representing Australia at key international meetings, including the annual ILO International Labour Conference.
  • meetings with the International Labour Affairs Committee, where the Australian Government and Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), and the Australian Council of Trade Unions discuss international labour issues.

The Australian Government also engages with the ACCI and the ACTU on international labour issues primarily through participation in the ILO’s annual International Labour Conference attended by around 5000 delegates representing governments, and employers’ and workers’ organisations from the ILO’s 185 member States. The International Labour Conference has many tasks, chiefly the adoption and supervision of Conventions and Recommendations and a global platform for the examination of labour and social issues.

Updates

Australia is also required to table the text of new ILO Conventions and Recommendations in the Parliament of Australia. Most recently, Recommendation No. 204 concerning the Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy was tabled in Parliament on 3 May 2016.

IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour

The Department of Jobs and Small Business (formerly the Department of Employment) led the Australian Government delegation to the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour held in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 14 to 17 November 2017. The Conference, supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO), brought together over 3,800 representatives from governments, worker and employer organisations, civil society and regional and international organisations to agree on measures to accelerate the eradication of child labour and forced labour, articulated in the final outcome document for the Conference, the Buenos Aires Declaration. The Declaration sets out the commitment of stakeholders to take action to accelerate efforts to end child labour by 2025 and forced labour by 2030.

Over 90 countries made voluntary, action oriented pledges in line with the Declaration, including Australia. Australia demonstrated its commitment to tackling forced labour at the Conference by pledging to progress ratification of the International Labour Organization's Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930. The Forced Labour Protocol recognises that the context and forms of forced labour have changed in contemporary times and adds new elements to the Forced Labour Convention which Australia ratified in 1932, including addressing the root causes of slavery. The Department of Jobs and Small Business is working with states and territories to progress ratification of the Forced Labour Protocol.

View Australia's pledge to progress ratification of the Forced Labour Protocol.

Australia's pledge to progress ratification of the Forced Labour Protocol.

Labour Provisions in Free Trade Agreements

The department provides advice and assistance to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on labour issues that may arise in trade matters. Labour provisions feature in the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (ASUFTA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP-11).

Labour provisions are currently being negotiated in the Australia-European Union Free Trade Agreement and the Pacific Alliance Free Trade Agreement. Labour provisions have also recently been negotiated in the Peru-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Other key free trade agreements include the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) (concluded on 20 April 2017) and the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) (concluded on 31 August 2018)

Want to know more?