Workers’ Rights and Protection in Third-World Countries


While globalization has supposedly led to all things good, such as economic growth, improved international relations, it has been frighteningly detrimental to those working in developing countries. Although to be fair, we cannot discount the significant rise in employment opportunities due to globalization; we can also not downplay the cost behind it. Despite the labor laws enforced by the International Labor Organization worldwide, the working conditions in third-world countries continue to be deplorable.

So then, what are the standards mentioned in the Charter of Labor Laws published by the ILO, and how does it promise to protect the rights of workers in developing nations? Read on to find out.

Workers’ Rights as Per the ILO Labor Law

According to a 2005 study conducted by the International Labor Organization, approximately 9.5 million employees work in slave-like conditions in the world. The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work seeks to change that, which is why it mandates all state members to comply with all standards provided in the following four categories.

  • Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining- workers are free to join unions and vocalize their concerns.
  • The elimination of forced or compulsory labor- Labor is not a commodity that can be auctioned off or purchased.
  • The abolition of child labor- no minor are to be employed in factories or other working sites
  • The elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation- no employee is to be subjected to any kind of unjust treatment or discrimination based on any demographic features.

Governments as Enforcers

The Labor Rights Declaration is fully realized with the cooperation and interest of governments. This is why most developed countries are far better at abiding by labor law standards. On top of the state’s involvement, capital is a critical factor needed for labor rights implementation, which is the fundamental reason why third-world countries overlook the importance of worker rights.

Most underdeveloped countries need an inflow of investment in order to boost their economies- a goal that can be realized much sooner with the help of foreign exchange, which comes when international conglomerates want to reduce their labor costs. So, naturally, when financially struggling states are offered handsome remuneration in exchange for cheap human resources, they sign the deal. But in order to maintain higher profit margins, little of the revenue generated is spent on the wellbeing of workers. As a result, the working conditions in factories continue to be dangerously unpleasant.

Increased Exports in Developing Countries

As surprising as it may be, unsafe factory environments and low labor costs often lead to increased exports, resulting in the expansion of growing economies. Literature on the subject reveals that exports in Bangladesh (Yunus and Yamagata 2014) and Vietnam (Goto 2014) increased when labor costs were reduced, leading to trade deals with first-world countries.

The Way Forward

The only way to better the working standards for the labor force in third-world states is to strictly enforce the Declaration of Workers’ Rights, and that’s only possible if governments begin to take an interest in the issue.

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