International Labour Laws

Labour laws, globalization and the economy.

What are International Labour Laws?

International labour law is a body of international laws concerning rights and duties of employees, employers, trade unions and governments in regulating the workplace.

International Labour Organization

The International Labour Organization is a tripartite union which brings together governments, employees and employers in 187 states to discuss labour standards, develop policies and create programmes that promote decent work for all men and women. This organization gives an equal voice to workers, employers, and governments to ensure that the views of the social partners are closely reflected in labour standards and in shaping policies and programmes.

The mission of the International Labour Organization is to promote social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights. They believe that social justice is essential to universal and everlasting peace.

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Labour Laws in Canada

Federal labour standards are established under part III of the Canada Labour Code, which sets out minimum standards that federally regulated employers and employees must follow. In this code of conduct, it includes hours of work, wages, harassment etc.

Canada has been a major participant in the ILO from the beginning and was a founding member of the organization in 1919.The federal Parliament went so far as to include in the Preamble of the Canada Labour Code reference to the ILO Conventions and the broadly defined principles of freedom of association.

In managing Canada's ILO participation, the International Labour Affairs Division of the Labour Program:

  • Develops government positions on ILO-related issues in consultation with other federal departments, the provinces and territories, and Canadian worker and employer organizations. ILA works closely with officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs, both in Ottawa and at the Canadian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, to ensure effective Canadian representation and involvement.
  • Consults with the above-mentioned partners on a wide range of international labour issues, ILO questionnaires, reports and government positions on the development of international labour standards.
  • Provides information to the ILO on Canadian labour law and practice; monitors, assesses, and reports on Canadian compliance with ILO conventions; and ensures that federal and provincial government responses to ILO supervisory bodies, including the Committee on Freedom of Association, are provided in a timely manner.
  • Manages the process for Canadian ratification of ILO Conventions.
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Globalization is the process by which societies, cultures, politics and economies around the world are becoming increasingly integrated. As a result of globalization, countries from around the world form political, social and economic relationships with different nations.

Economic globalization refers to the increasing integration of world economics that results from the increased results from the free trade of products and services. Countries are able to share capital, production, labour markets, technology and resources and this results in lower labour costs for distributors and lower prices for consumers.

Free market capitalism is a market system in which producers are free to enter a line of business and sell their product at a price they choose. Consumers are also free to buy products at a price they are willing to accept. Free market capitalism has shown to have a positive effect on globalization because it leads to the global distribution of goods and services through reduction of barriers to international trade. As a result, there is now economic growth in both developed and developing countries.

Video on Globalization

Globalization easily explained (explainity® explainer video)
Watch this informative video from 0:53 - 3:37. This video explains what globalization is as well as the pros and cons of globalization.

Pros and Cons of Globalization


  • Free trade is supposed to reduce barriers such as tariffs, value added taxes, subsidies, and other barriers between nations but this is not true considering there are still many barriers to free trade.
  • The proponents say globalization represents free trade which promotes global economic growth; creates jobs, makes companies more

    competitive, and lowers prices for consumers.

  • Competition between countries is supposed to drive prices down. In many
  • cases this is not working because countries manipulate their currency to get a price advantage.


  • Workers in developed countries like the US face pay-cut demands from employers who threaten to export jobs. This has created a culture of fear for many

    middle class

    workers who have little leverage in this global game
  • Large multi-national corporations have the ability to exploit tax havens in other countries to avoid paying taxes.
  • Multinational corporations are accused of social injustice, unfair working conditions. as well as lack of concern for environment, mismanagement of natural resources, and ecological damage.

New International Division of Labour Theory

Companies take advantage of advances in telecommunications and transportation to aid in their globalization in hopes of increasing their profit. Many North American apparel retailers have relocated their labour-intensive factories to Asia where labour costs are lower. The New International Division of Labour Theory is the theory that commodity production can be divided and assigned to different areas of the world which would provide the most profitable combination of both capital and labour. By increasing international trade, globalization has produced an industrial shift relocating means of production to developing countries.

Free trade is promoted by something known as trade-liberalization agreements which are agreements between countries that removes or reduces restrictions or barriers on the free exchange of goods between nations. Factories are located in Export Processing Zones, or EPZ's, which are regions where countries have agreed to reduce or get rid of barriers that affect global trades. EPZs are usually located near borders, airports or seaports due to the geographic advantages of these locations. Governments of poor countries often create EPZs as a way of attracting foreign investment.

A global economy without borders means that natural resources can be extracted in one area and undergo processing in another part of the world. The final products are then distributed to foreign and core markets. These activities make up the global commodity chain. Global commodity chains are complex patterns of international labour and production processes that result in a finished commodity, ready for sale in the marketplace.

Quality of Life

Someone's quality of life can be defined as the standard of health, comfort and happiness experienced by an individual or group. The Human Development Index is a list of statistics of life expectancy, education, and income per capita which are used to group humans into four tiers based on their country.

The HDI is not a very suitable method for determining a nation's quality of life because of the many factors they don't take in. The HDI only takes in the basic information of people rather than the important aspects of human development. The HDI is also an average so numbers and statistics may be skewed and inaccurate. The main focus of the HDI is to emphasize the fact that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of the country, not just economic growth.

Human Development Index

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There are a few concerns surrounding globalization and unfair work conditions are one of them. An example of unfair work conditions includes sweatshops. Sweatshops are factories in which working conditions are dangerous or unfair to workers.

A main contributor to the existence of sweatshops arises from the fact that EPZs are often not subject to the labour laws of the host country. Sweatshops violate two or more labour laws regarding wages and benefits, child labour or working hours. Popular goods made in sweatshops include shoes, clothing, rugs, toys and certain kinds of foods including chocolate and coffee.

Child Labour

Child Labour can be defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. In extreme cases, children are taken from their families or exposed to serious hazards. The International Labour Organization estimate that around 250 million children are forced into child labour. The picture below displays which children around the world are most at risk for child labour from 2012.

How to Help Stop Child Labour

  • Make a conscious effort to not purchase goods that you know are made using child labour.
  • Inform yourself about the consequences and abuse that is involved with using child labour.
  • Create awareness with the help of other people who have the same beliefs as you to stop child labour.
  • Sensitize others by creating pictures and videos that are related to child labour so people know the horror of child labour.

Worldwide Child Labour Statistics

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Modernization Theory

The modernization theory aims to identify how past and present societies are modernized and how societies react to modernization. It focuses on how "traditional" societies are trandoformed into Western societies.

This theory is rooted in the idea that humans can develop and change their society, and that this change is made possible by the advancements in technology and other areas of industry. It states that societies modernize not only through processes of economic growth, but also through changes in social, political, and cultural systems. Since globalization is a predominant phenomenon in Western society, a society is considered to be modern once it shifts toward the social, economic and political systems that are seen in Western societies.

Walt Whitman Rostow developed the Stages of Economic Growth model which identifies a number of conditions that were likely to occur at each stage of economic growth. Rostow viewed traditional cultural values as a major obstace to economicc modernization in low income countries. HE argues that tradition thinking characterizie low income societies. He believe that if low income nations adopted a Western outlook on society, it would drive towards economic modernization.

Rostow's Model of Development

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For many years, Nike has been accused of using sweatshops to manufacture their footwear and apparel. Their sweatshops were first located in South Korea and Taiwan but after labour costs rose so they quickly relocated to Indonesia,

China and Vietnam.

Controversy arose when a picture of a Pakistani boy sewing a football surfaced. This lead to an investigation which revealed hat workers in one of its contracted factories in Vietnam were being exposed to toxic fumes at up to 177 times the Vietnamese legal limit. An Indonesian worker for Nike signed a contract that paid 14 cents an hour and documented forms of abuse.

In 1998, the CEO of Nike announced that he was going to raise minimum wages and raise minimum age and reduce working hours for employees. In February of 2001, Nike issued a report confessing the company's role in facilitating worker exploitation. The term exploitation means the mistreatment or unfair use of a person for the benefit of others.

To Conclude...

International Labour Laws are necessary to create order and equality between employees and employers. When many companies such as Nike, do not follow labour laws, it results in inequality and unfair treatment of workers. When manufacturers produce products for a low price, companies are able to resell products for a price the consumers are willing to pay, but when purchasing these goods, customers may not know that they are supporting sweatshops and child labour. By integrating free market capitalism, we will see an increase in economic growth in both developed and undeveloped countries.