The ILO Convention on Private Employment Agencies and the Decent Work Agenda

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Challenges Faced by the ILO


The ILO’s overarching labour policy is considered below and incorporates an examination of the major challenges the ILO faces regarding the organisation’s existence, and the purpose, relevance and enforceability of policy, so as to highlight the ILO’s responses to its policies and developments in respect of its conventions and recommendations.



In 2005 Hepple argued that one of the causes of a noticeable decline in standardsetting by the ILO and ratification by member states is the increasing irrelevance of international standards.279 Historically, the ILO catered for the standard form of employment, whereas the changing world of work challenges the relevance and applicability of ILO standards.
Wisskirchen comments, although the ILO had been active for a period of 86 years, it was only moderately well-known in member states and its activities seem to have a limited influence280 due to the instruments from the ILO’s early days being formulated at a time when industry and the world of work were different to what they currently are. Weiss re-affirms this claim and states that a study was conducted in which it was established that only a fraction of conventions and recommendations were up to date.281


Globalisation poses another challenge to the ILO. In the past the standard of living of a state’s people depended largely on the abundance of natural resources, the availability of sufficient capital and sufficient labour, whereas today natural resources matter less and technology, capital and labour are more readily available in many countries.282 Developed countries have an advantage over developing nations. The ILO endeavoured to create international labour standards that cater for both developed and developing countries.
Globalisation results in a greater focus on the competitiveness of countries ratherthan on workers’ rights and is not necessarily supportive of the ILO’s traditional goal of striving for social justice. Hepple raises the issue that the real question posed by globalisation is not whether there are too many international standards, as some believe, but rather whether the standards are the ones that are needed to counteract the effects of globalisation on the majority of the world’s workers.283 The further question is whether such standards are effectively monitored.



The notion of “universality” poses a further challenge to the operation of the ILO.284 The question asked is whether it is possible to approach globalisation through the universal application of international labour standards285 and relates to their relevance. If countries are so different, for instance developed versus developing, how can an international instrument cater for and be relevant to both countries? Langille is of the view that there should be a shift from the universal application of standards to a more local and contextual application.286

Chapter 1 Introduction
1. Introduction
2. Contextual Background
2.1 Unemployment
2.2 Non-Standard Employment .
2.3 Legislative Overhaul
3. Concept of “Agency Work” and Other Definitions
4. Research Aims and Question of the Study
5. Significance of the Study
6. Research Methodology .
7. Delineations and Limitations
8. Overview of the Chapters in the Study
Chapter 2 The Purpose of Labour Law
1. Introduction
2. Historical Perspective on the Purpose of Labour Law
3. Competing Perspectives on the Purpose of Labour Law
4. The Purpose of Labour Law in South Africa
5. Conclusion
Chapter 3 The ILO Convention on Private Employment Agencies and the Decent Work Agenda
1. Introduction
2. Relevance of International Labour Standards
3. ILO Standards on Agency Work
4. Challenges Faced by the ILO
5. ILO’s Policy Shift
6. Conclusion
Chapter 4 The EU Directive on Temporary Agency Work and “Flexicurity”
1. Introduction
2. The EU Directive on Temporary Agency Work
3. Policy Developments and “Flexicurity”
4. Conclusion
Chapter 5 The South African Concept of “Regulated Flexibility”
1. Introduction
2. Labour Policy Developments in South Africa
3. The Concept of Regulated Flexibility
4. Future Labour Policy
5. Conclusion
Chapter 6 An Appraisal of the Protection of Agency Workers in South Africa
Chapter 7 Protection of Agency Workers: Comparison with Germany and Namibia
Chapter 8 Conclusion and Recommendations


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