ILO Promotes Decent Work for All, Mia Väisänen, ILO

Presentation to Third FIMITIC Women Conference on
"Improving Quality of Life of Women with Disability"
Zagreb, Croatia, 8 - 7 November 2003
Ms. Mia Väisänen
IFP/SKILLS – Equity Issues Group
International Labour Office
4 route des Morillons
1201 Geneva Switzerland
ILO Promotes Decent Work for All
Decent Work is ILO‘s primary goal for everyone, including people with disabilities.
Equality of men and women is a priority issue in the work of ILO. Already the Declaration of Philadelphia, of 1944, which is part of the constitution of the ILO, laid down the principle of equality of all human beings. The commitment to equality of men and women is demonstrated in the ILO instruments that prohibit discrimination and promote equality on the basis of sex, such as Convention No. 111, concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation, adopted in 1958.
ILO’s commitment to equality between all women and men is demonstrated in the work of the ILO, including policy advice and advocacy, technical support to the social partners, and in the research carried out on trends and good practices in relevant areas.
The ILO, and in particular, its disability programme has worked for over 50 years to promote employment opportunities for people with disabilities, based on the principles of
  • equal opportunity;
  • equal treatment;
  • mainstreaming;
  • and community involvement.
The principle of non-discrimination is increasingly emphasised, as disability issues have come to be seen as issues of human rights.
While people with disabilities are covered by all ILO Conventions relating to vocational training, employment, and social security, there are some specific labour standards relating to disabled persons. These are:
  • Recommendation  99 concerning Vocational  Rehabilitation of the Disabled dating from 1955
  • Convention 159 concerning Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons of1983
  • Recommendation 168 which accompanies Convention 159
  • The Code of Practice ‘Managing Disability in the Workplace’ 2001.
Recommendation 99, introduced almost 50 years ago, is a stand-alone recommendation which was before its time in proposing mainstreaming training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities, where appropriate.
While adopted in the 1980s, Convention 159 has continued to be of great interest to ILO member States – this is reflected in the fact that it is now ratified by 75 countries (18 new ratifications in the 5 years since 1998).   
The ILO Code of Practice on Managing Disability at the Workplace adds to the range of standards which the ILO uses in its work to promote the employment of disabled persons.  The Code reflects the significant changes which have taken place in the understanding of disability, and in legislation, policies and services concerning disabled persons since Convention 159 was adopted in 1983.
The key activities of the ILO’s work on training and employment of people with disabilities are building the knowledge base, advocacy work and technical cooperation services around the world.
  • The ILO contributes to the Knowledge Base concerning people with disabilities through: research, evaluation, identification of good practice, publications, and dissemination of information.
  • Its advocacy work involves adoption and promotion of labour standards; policy advice to governments, employers‘ and workers‘ organizations;  and organising meetings and seminars
  • The ILO also promotes decent work for people with disabilities through technical cooperation services, which include projects and  training programmes, to assist in putting the principles which it advocates into practice. 
As I mentioned earlier, equality between all women and men is a priority issue. Women with disabilities often face added disadvantages because of their sex and because of the disability.  Therefore the ILO has activities which specifically focus on women with disabilities. The ILO has developed specific activities increasing the income earning capacity of women with disability to respond to the need for systematic action to improve the situation of women with disabilities.
A pilot technical cooperation programme has been implemented in Ethiopia – called “Developing entrepreneurship among women with disabilities”. The project works in partnership with organizations of women with disabilities – it has collected information of the situation of women with disabilities in Ethiopia and has given business skills training for the women, for example. A preparatory phase of the project is currently being implemented in the Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – where information is collected of women with disabilities.  These projects are explained in detail later in the workshop of this conference.