ILO Marks World Day with Report on Safety and Health in the Future of Work
Mlondolozi Mbolo/Decent Work Regulation
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One hundred years after the founding of the International Labour Organization, the agency reports that 2.8 million people still die each year from work-related causes.

The publication finds more than one-third of all workers are working excessively long hours, and women workers still undertake the greater share of unpaid care work with regard to children and elderly parents.

The report has been launched ahead of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April.

18 April 2019: One hundred years after the founding of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN agency reports that 2.8 million people still die each year from work-related causes. In a report launched ahead of the 2019 World Day for Safety and Health at Work, the ILO finds that more than one-third of all workers are working excessively long hours, and women workers still take on the greater share of unpaid care work with regard to children and elderly parents.

SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth expresses the international community’s commitment to protect labor rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment. This Goal is one of several SDGs that will be reviewed in depth during the July 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

The ILO’s 75-page report titled, ‘Safety and Health at the Heart of the Future of Work: Building on 100 Years of Experience,’ provides an overview of 100 years of the ILO’s work on health and safety in the workplace, and an analysis of challenges and opportunities in the world of work with regard to digitalization and information and communication technology (ICT), automation and robotics, and nanotechnology.

For example, the report notes that using ICT to work outside of traditional workplaces or working remotely can remove workers from hazardous workplace environments, but it may also introduce changes to the type and pace of work, making psychosocial and organizational factors increasingly important. Exposure to nano-materials and electro-magnetic radiation may pose new threats to health, and should be further researched. The report addresses challenges particularly with regard to young and aging worker populations, women and migrant workers.

Manal Azzi, ILO, highlighted that workplace demands have increased, and women’s health is particularly affected. The ILO report finds that the largest share “by far” of work-related deaths is associated with occupational diseases, with 31% of deaths relating to circulatory diseases, 26% to work-related cancers, and 17% to respiratory diseases. Azzi noted that workers now use more technology, and 36% of workers are working excessively long hours, defined as more than 48 hours of work per week.

The ILO has adopted over 40 international labor standards on various aspects of safety in the workplace environment, including standards on radiation, asbestos and cancer-causing chemicals, and on activities in the agriculture, construction and mining sectors. There are 189 ILO Conventions, and many guidelines and codes of practice.

In January 2019, the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work launched the ILO’s centenary year with a call for a Universal Labor Guarantee that will ensure workers’ rights including an adequate living wage, limits on work hours, and safe and health workplaces. In April, the UN General Assembly commemorated the anniversary with a high-level meeting on the future of work. Participants called for adaptation for technology disruption and stressed the growing importance of social justice in the world of work.

The World Day for Safety and Health at Work will be marked on 28 April. [UN News] [World Day webpage]

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