People's Stories Livelihood

Fact file
One of the best protections against poverty, and its crippling effect on human dignity, is the right to work. This means the right to paid employment, sufficient to support oneself (and one's family).
In most countries, fewer women work in paid jobs than men - though they certainly work. In countries where most women work side-by-side with men, most of the best-paid and safest or rewarding jobs - and powerful positions in society, politics and business - are held by men.
There should be no discrimination against already disadvantaged groups, such as migrant workers, or women, or racial or religious minorities, all of whom are seriously disadvantaged in access to work and working conditions. Many countries should, and in principle do, support equal pay for work of equal value. But far more women than men are poor, and their children are poor, because their work is not valued in the same way, and not rewarded.
Most people need a particular job rather more than a large corporation or institutional employer needs their particular set of skills. It is important, therefore, to let individuals work together to improve their circumstances.
That is why it is a fundamental right for people to join trade unions and labour associations, to negotiate collectively on the conditions, safety and remuneration for work and, if necessary, to be able to remove their labour collectively.
Free trade unions - organisations that help individual employees negotiate as a group to improve their wages and conditions with employers - are an essential element of a democratic society.
Yet many countries who call themselves 'democratic' do not allow trade unions and leave conditions of work to 'free market' conditions. There are always beggars on the outskirts of 'free markets', and there may be many more as the globalisation of the world economy continues. Unemployment is now a common experience in poorer countries, and rising in developing countries, as is under-employment.
Human rights cannot be ignored in the market place. They should be built into working practices - as they are, in those countries that have adopted International Labour Organization Conventions on working conditions and others with anti-discrimination laws. The ILO Convention 111 acknowledges that workers have family responsibilities and rights to have these taken into account at work, is a human rights instrument.
There is a growing trend in the business community to address and abide by universal human rights concerns in their daily business practices. It is quite possible to run a business in a manner that acknowledges human rights concerns. It is not in any community's interest to behave without respect for the rights of employees. Human rights are as important as market forces.
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