International Labour Organization (ILO): Functions, Objectives and Structure | ILO UPSC

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

International Labour Organization (ILO) is an agency of the United Nations (U.N). The ILO promotes 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 worldwide. The standards carried out by the International Labour Organization are widely instructed to assure productive, accessible, and sustainable work and tasks existing worldwide in conditions of equity, freedom, dignity, and security.

International Labour Organization is an important topic of the UPSC Syllabus. The candidates preparing for the UPSC Exam must thoroughly review this topic.

International Labour Organization (ILO)

The International Labour Organization was established in 1919 under the League of Nations and was integrated into the United Nations as an exclusive agency in 1946.

  • The full form of ILO is International Labour Organization.
  • The ILO is known to be the oldest and first specialized agency of the U.N. The organization’s main objective is to provide services that unite forces among governments, workers, and businesses.
  • It focuses on workers’ or labourers’ need to enjoy equity, freedom, human dignity, and security via employment.
  • The International Labour Organization encourages international Labour standards through its field offices in Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, Arab States, Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Europe.

International Labour Organization: History

The International Labour Organization was founded as an important agency for the League of Nations during World War I. The Treaty of Versailles was founded in 1919.

  • The founders of ILO had made immense strides in the fields of social thought and actions before the formation of the organization.
  • The International Labour Organization was called the first specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) in 1946.
  • The ILO has been critical in encouraging labour and human rights. It 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.

ILO: Organizational Structure

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 the executive body of the International Labour Organization. The governing body holds meetings in Geneva. It meets a year thrice. 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 discuss 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.

Objectives of the ILO

The objectives of the International Labour Organization are:

  • A coherent set of policies and programs is developed and targeted at resolving social and Labour challenges.
  • Oversee international labour standards and frame conventions and recommendations.
  • Muster the support of member states in resolving related Labour issues.
  • Protect the civil rights of workers. It includes the freedom to work, free association, collective agreements, security from slave Labour, security from prejudice, etc.
  • Work on market and employment issues, including investigation and publishing.

Functions of the ILO

The International Labour Organization plays a vital role in formulating policies that are emphasized in solving Labour issues. Some other functions of the International Labour Organization 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 policies of the International Labour Organization; 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 implementation procedure 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 International Labour Organization aids in registering complaints against entities 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 the ILO makes, 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 forming an International Labour Organization’s Global Commission. The Commission observes a vision for a human-centred agenda 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.

International Labour Organization and India

India is one of the founding members of the International Labour Organization and 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 International Labour Organization and its organs have mutual trust and respect as the main principles. They are based on creating sustained institutional capacities and strengthening partners’ capacities.

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 still needs to ratify the two main core/fundamental conventions:

  • The protection of the Right and Freedom of Association to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87)
  • The Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98

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

Chronicles of ILO

The International Labour Organization ensures training on fair employment standards and 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 1969. The organization was observed as an agency promoting fraternity, 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 Organization have been broadcasted in 190 conventions and six protocols.
  • These standards compass the right to collective bargaining, attempt to boycott compulsory or forced Labour and abolish child Labour, 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 International Labour Organization comprises a three-tiered structure that assimilates governments, employers, and workers. The three important bodies of the International Labour Organization 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 the permanent secretariat that works in the organization’s administration and implements certain activities.

ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work

Forming an ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work signifies the second ILO Future of Work Initiative stage. 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.


International Labour Organization is an important topic in the UPSC Syllabus. It is seen that the topic of ILO is majorly based on polity and Current Affairs.

Question: How many members are there in the governing body of the International Labour Organization?

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

Answer: Option D

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