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Further reading on "Decent work"


UNESCO-UNEVOC has compiled a short selection of acdemic or professional articles that might help to clarify the signification and the use of the term "Decent work". It goes thus beyond the definitions stored in TVETipedia while not pretending to offer an exhaustive bibliography on the topic.

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Report of the director general: Decent Work (1999) and Report of the Director-General: Reducing the decent work deficit - a global challenge (2001) By Juan Somavia, ILO

Those two “reports of the director-general” coined –probably for the first time- the term “decent work”. It is worth noting that both reports were keystones of ILO's modernisation and reform programs for the 21th century, and set the tone of M. Juan Somavia's mandates as director-general (1999-2012).

The selected quotes aim to highlight both the philosophy of the 'decent work' concept and its strategic importance for ILO.


New Foundation or New Façade? The ILO and the 2008 Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization By Francis Maupain (2009)

Published 10 years after the previous reference, this academic article shows how much the ILO (and 'decent work') evolved during this time-span. It does so by analyzing ILO’s 2008 “declaration on social justice for a fair globalisation”, which the author - employed by ILO at the time of publication - describes as "the first attempt since the end of world war II to reformulate the ILO's message".

In the selected quote, the author develops the case of ‘decent work’ and highlights how the term changed since 1999: he explains the vagueness of the concept, the strengths and weaknesses that came out of it, and how ILO tried to “clear its legal standing and meaning” while not losing its initial malleability.


Measuring decent work and Decent work agenda, ILO Website

Those two online services highlight the efforts from ILO to find the right balance for 'decent work': Keeping the concept 'malleable'(like the previous reference coined it) while still leading to measurable results and concrete actions.

On the side of "concrete actions", ILO built an Agenda for Decent Work as well as a activities on the theme "Measuring of Decent Work". However, the description of both projects shows vigilance regarding their range.

The Agenda for Decent Work reminds that “the balance within the programmes differs from country to country, reflecting their needs, resources and priorities”. As explained in the introduction of “Measuring of Decent work”, “detailed indicator definitions” will depend of the balance of each country.

Note that concrete results of this balanced approach can be downloaded at the bottom of the “measuring decent work” page, through the “decent work country profiles” of some pilot-countries. ILO also published a manual on Decent work indicator in 2012.


Measuring and assessing job quality By OECD (2015) and Handbook on measuring quality of employment By UNECE (2015)

"Decent work" is not the only term for defining employment quality, and ILO is not the only organisation concerned by this matter. Those two manuals reflect the work operated -still recently- by two global organisations (OECD and UNECE) on building a framework for measuring decent work. While facing similar issues (flexibility VS comparability), they came up with fairly different results.

The selected quotes include a table from the OECD manual that sums up the scales, criterias and methodologies followed by 7 international frameworks for job quality.


This article is an element of the TVETipedia Glossary.




page date 2016-05-02






page date 2014-07-24

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