International Labour Organization (ILO) - Full-Form, Headquarters

By K Balaji|Updated : September 6th, 2022

ILO (International Labour Organization) is an agency of the United Nations (U.N). The ILO aims to promote economic and social justice by placing international labour standards. The ILO involves 187 member states and has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, with nearly 40 field offices across the world. The standards carried by the International Labour Organisation are widely instructed to assure productive, accessible, and sustainable work and tasks existing worldwide in conditions of equity, freedom, dignity, and security.

International Labour Organisation is an important topic of the UPSC syllabus which forms part of the Polity subject. The candidates preparing for the UPSC exam must go through this topic in detail.

Table of Content

What Is the International Labour Organization (ILO)?

The International Labour Organization (ILO) was established in 1919 under the League of Nations and was integrated into the U.N. as an exclusive agency in 1946.

  • The ILO is known to be the oldest and first specialised agency of the U.N. The organisation’s main objective is to provide services of uniting forces among different governments, workers, and businesses.
  • It focuses on the need for workers or labourers so that they can enjoy equity, freedom, human dignity, and security, via employment.
  • The ILO encourages international labour standards through its field offices in Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, Arab States, Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Europe.

Understanding ILO

The organisation ensures training on fair employment standards and also offers several technical cooperation for projects in different countries on a partnership basis, evaluates labour statistics and helps in the publication of research, and frequently conducts conferences and events to examine crucial labour and social issues.

  • The ILO was honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize in the year 1969. The organisation was observed as the agency for promoting fraternity and ensuring peace among nations, hounding over satisfactory work and justice for workers, and delivering technical assistance to developing nations.
  • The labour standards placed forth by the International Labour Organisation have been broadcasted in 190 conventions and six protocols.
  • These standards compass the right to collective bargaining, attempt to boycott compulsory or forced labor and abolish child labor, and exterminate other acts of discrimination concerning occupation and employment.
  • As a result, the conventions and protocols of the ILO are the main contributors to international labour law.
  • The organisation comprises a three-tiered structure that assimilates together governments, employers, and workers.
  • The three important bodies of the ILO are the International Labour Conference, the Governing Body, and the International Labour Office.
  • The International Labour Conference conducts meetings yearly to formulate international labour standards; the Governing Body meets thrice a year, acting as the body of the executive council and planning the agency’s budget and policy.
  • The International Labour Office is known to be the permanent secretariat that works in the administration of the organisation and implements certain activities.

History of the International Labour Organization (ILO)

The ILO was founded as an important agency for the League of Nations during World War I. It was founded by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

  • The founders of ILO had made immense strides in the fields of social thought and actions before the formation of the organisation.
  • The International Labour Organisation was called the first specialised agency of the United Nations (UN) in the year 1946.
  • The ILO has played a critical role in encouraging labour and human rights. It had attained an important position during the Great Depression (the 1930s) for assuring labour rights.
  • This organization also contributed to the decolonization process and the triumph over apartheid in South Africa.

Structure of the International Labour Organisation (ILO)

The basis of the ILO is the tripartite principle. The ILO indulges the Governing Body, International Labour Conference, and the International Labour Office.

  • International Labour Conference: The progressive policies of the ILO are made by the International Labour Conference. This Conference is an annual event that takes place in Geneva, Switzerland. The conference brings the representatives of ILO together under one roof. It is a panel made to review the important issues related to labour.
  • Governing Body: The Governing Body is known to be the executive body of the International Labour Organization. The governing body holds meetings in Geneva. It meets thrice a year. The Office is called the secretariat of the Organization. The composition has 56 titular members, along with 66 deputy members. It makes decisions based on the agenda and the policies of the International Labour Conference. It helps in drafting the program and budget of the Organization for submission to the Conference.
  • International Labour Office: This is the permanent secretariat of the International Labour Organization. It plans the activities for ILO and is looked after by the Governing Body and the Director-General. The member States of ILO periodically hold regional meetings to conduct a discussion on the relevant issues of the concerned regions. Every 183 Member States of ILO hold the right to send four delegates to the Conference: two from the government and one each representing employers and workers, all of them may speak and vote independently.

Functions of the International Labour Organization (ILO)

The ILO plays a vital role in the formulation of policies that are emphasised in solving labour issues. Some other functions of ILO are mentioned below:

  • It perceives international labour standards. These are adopted in the form of conventions. It also regulates the implementation of the conventions.
  • It helps the member states in settling their social and labour problems. It also works for the protection of Human rights.
  • It provides research and publication of information related to social and labour issues.
  • The Trade Unions act as a pivotal character in the development of policies at the ILO, hence the Bureau for Workers’ Activities at the secretariat is solely dedicated to strengthening the independent and democratic trade unions so they can easily defend workers’ interests and rights.
  • The ILO also performs a supervisory role by maintaining the implementation of ILO conventions ratified by member states. The procedure of implementation is done by the Committee of Experts, the International Labour Conference’s Tripartite Committee, and the member states. Member states are compelled to send reports about the development of the implementation of the conventions which they have approved.
  • The ILO aids in registering complaints against entities that are violating international rules. The ILO, however, sanctions are not imposed on the governments. Sometimes, Complaints can be filed against the member states for not adhering to the ILO conventions that have been ratified.
  • The ILO also works to set International Labour Standards. The international labour conventions, which are made by the ILO, are ratified by the member states. These are mainly non-binding. If once a member state accepts conventions, it becomes legally binding. These conventions are usually used to bring national laws in alignment with international standards.
  • The second stage in the ILO Future of Work Initiative is marked by the formation of an ILO Global Commission. The Commission observes a vision for a human-centred agenda that is based on investing in people’s capabilities and potentialities, institutions of work, and decent and sustainable work. It mainly describes the problems caused by climate change, new technology, and demography and appeals to a collective global response to the disturbances being caused in the world of work.

ILO and India

India is one of the founding members of the ILO, and it also has been a permanent member of the ILO Governing Body since 1922. In India, the first ILO Office was set up in 1928. The decades of a productive and fruitful partnership between the ILO and its organs have mutual trust and respect as the main principles and are based on creating sustained institutional capacities and strengthening the capacities of partners. India has ratified about six out of the eight core/fundamental ILO conventions. Such conventions are mentioned below:

  • Forced Labour Convention (No. 29)
  • Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No.105)
  • Equal Remuneration Convention (No.100)
  • Discrimination (Employment Occupation) Convention (No.111)
  • Minimum Age Convention (No.138)
  • Worst forms of Child Labour Convention (No.182)

It is seen that India has not ratified the two main core/fundamental conventions - The protection of the Right and Freedom of Association to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).

The major reason for the non-ratification of ILO conventions No.87 & 98 may be due to specific restraints imposed on the government servants. The ratification of such conventions would indulge in granting of particular rights which are prohibited under the statutory rules, for the employees of the government, such as the right to strike, to criticise government policies openly, to accept a financial contribution without restrictions to join foreign organisations freely.

ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work

The formation of an ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work signifies the second stage in the ILO Future of Work Initiative. This was co-chaired by South African President - Cyril Ramaphosa and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.

The commission indulges in a vision for a human-centred agenda that is based on investing in people’s capabilities and potentiality, decent and sustainable work and institutions of work, and an in-depth examination of the future of work that can give the analytical basis for the delivery of social justice in the 21st century.

It marks the challenges caused by climate change, new technology, and demography and also announces a collective global response to the problems they are creating in the world of work. Artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics may lead to employment as skills become obsolete.

Some key recommendations are enlisted below:

  • The universal labour guarantee protects the fundamental rights of workers, a sufficient living wage, adding limits on working hours, and safe and healthy workplaces.
  • Guaranteed social protection from birth to old age, supporting people’s needs throughout their lives.
  • A universal entitlement to lifelong learning provides great help to people to skill, reskill and upskill.
  • Controlling technological change to develop decent work involves an international governance system for digital labour platforms.
  • Greater investments in the spheres of care, green and rural economies.
  • A measurable and transformative agenda for gender equality.
  • Reshaping business incentives to promote long-term investments.


ILO is an important topic in the UPSC Syllabus. It is seen that the topic of ILO is majorly based on polity and Current Affairs. So, the aspirants need to read newspapers daily and keep a check on the news analysis as well as the static portion of the syllabus. To learn more about NGOs in detail and in a precise manner, candidates can refer to NCERT Books for UPSC and UPSC Books.

>> Download Short Notes on International Labour Organization (ILO) PDF

ILO UPSC Sample Prelims Question

Choose the correct option.

Q1. How many members are there in the governing body of the ILO?

  1. 22.
  2. 20.
  3. 25.
  4. 56.

Answer: 56

Other Important UPSC Notes
Good GovernanceSocial Empowerment
Public Distribution SystemAyushman Bharat Scheme
Wetlands in IndiaSpecial Economic Zone In India
National Commission for WomenZero Coupon Bond
Black CarbonPermanent Settlement
Aspirational District ProgrammeCitizenship Amendment Act (CAA 2019)


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FAQs on International Labour Organization

  • The mandate of ILO is to encourage social justice, employment, and better working conditions for both men and women. The conventions and recommendations are used by ILOs to establish an international system of standards for the protection of workers and fundamental rights.

  • The International Labour Organisation or ILO has elected Gilbert F. Houngbo as the 11th Director General of the organisation.

  • The eight fundamental conventions of ILO are mentioned below:

    • Freedom of Association.
    • Forced Labour.
    • Labour Inspection.
    • Collective bargaining.
    • Equality of opportunity and treatment.
    • Child Labour. 
    • Tripartite Consultation.
    • Labour Administration.
  • ILO has decentralised its management into different activities in the spheres of regional, branch offices in the 40 countries spreading over these regions: Asia, the Middle East, the Pacific, Central, and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Africa.

  • Unlike other United Nations organisations, the ILO comprises a tripartite governing structure that brings governments, workers, and employers of 187 member states to set labour standards, form policies, and develop programs encouraging decent work for all men and women.

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