First Global Decent Work Check shows: Convergence in Enacting Laws & Divergence in Implementation - October 5, 2015

First Global Decent Work Check shows:

Labour Rights: Convergence in Enacting Laws & Divergence in Implementation 

7 October, World Day For Decent Work

Amsterdam, 5th October 2015 – At least 131 countries worldwide provide legislation to protect their workforce against inhumane labour practices. A recent international comparison by the WageIndicator Foundation reveals that the majority of countries seem to agree on what constitutes Decent Work and have enacted legislation to promote ILO's Decent Work Agenda. However, laws are just a part of the road towards attaining decent work. Implementation and compliance seem to be more urgent.

This present comparison is based on the WageIndicator's Decent Work Check which consists of the de-jure provisions with international labour standards and ranks countries' labour laws. Although there are issues with focusing only on de-jure labour market institutions and provisions (namely existence of large informal sectors in developing countries and non-compliance coupled with tepid and lackluster implementation of labour laws), well drafted and inclusive provisions (i.e., with least "exclusions”) are still a pre-condition for attaining decent work.

This is the major outcome of the second global review of national labour legislation, conducted in 2015 by WageIndicator in 131 countries including all the major world economies. The results of this second international comparison are published on the occasion of the World Day For Decent Work, October 7th. The first comparative analysis was published in 2013. It was however not very comprehensive as it covered only 18 indicators and 54 countries. The current analysis by contrast includes 35 indicators and 131 countries, amongst which are all the major economies of the world. The newly added indicators include public holidays, weekly rest days, trade union rights, employment contracts and a full set of indicators on child labour.  


Minimum Wage & Regular Payment of Wages

This second and most comprehensive global Decent Work Check Review (of national labour legislation) reveals that in the majority of countries minimum wages are set by the state. Minimum wages are determined through collective bargaining in the Nordic countries, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Chad & Namibia. Only Arab (Qatar & Yemen) and African countries (South Sudan, Uganda, Burundi & Senegal) have no provision on minimum wages. 

Regular payment of wages contributes towards decent work. However it is astonishing to note that in many countries, there are no provisions requiring the regularity of wage payments at the end of a wage period.

Working Hours & Compensation

It is interesting to note that in the previous review the 48-hour week was the most frequent. However in the current comparison the 40-44 hour weeks overtakes the 48-hour week (60 vs 55 countries). Only 5 out of the 131 countries compared, i.e. Australia, Belgium, Netherlands, France and Chad, have a working week of less than 40 hours. Kenya is the only country that allows for a work week of more than 48 hours.

The maximum working hours inclusive of overtime vary between countries. The maximum working hours range from less than or equal to 48 hours per week to 61 or more hours per week. The countries with 48 or less hours per week (inclusive of overtime) are evenly distributed in Africa and Europe. There is no country in Asia which falls under this range. What however distinguishes Asia from other regions is that five countries in this region (Iraq, Iran, Nepal, Thailand & Malaysia) have maximum working hours that either equal to or exceed 61 hours per week.


Overtime Compensation Rates

The trend is that work in overtime is paid at a higher rate, between 125 and 150% (in some cases even 200%) of the normal wage rate. In some European countries, where there is no legal provision, overtime rates are laid down in Collective Bargaining Agreements. Similar is the case of certain African countries (Chad, Gabon & Mauritania).  In most African countries overtime hours are to be paid at 150% of the normal wage rate, with the exception of Somalia, Ethiopia, Mali & Morocco which provide for a lower replacement rate (125%). Those providing the highest compensation for overtime (200%) include, among others, South Asian nations of Bangladesh, India & Pakistan as well as many Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) nations.


Premium for Night Work

Night work compensation is categorised as monetary compensation or reduction in working hours. The most commonly used method is paying the premium to those engaged in night work. The reduction in working hours is found only in European and Latin American countries. Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Portugal, El Salvador, Brazil, Honduras & Paraguay are the only countries in this review which not only reduce working hours for night workers but also require the night work premium. Night work compensation is determined through collective bargaining in European as well as in some African countries (Niger, Togo & Zimbabwe). The premium rates for night workers are most generous in some African, Asian, European, and Latin American countries. The most prevalent however is that no premium pay is required for night workers.


Paid Annual Leave

More than three working weeks of paid annual leave is the norm in most countries. This includes almost all African and European countries, CIS-nations as well as Arab countries. The only countries which provide less than three working weeks of paid annual leave are mostly found in Asia and include China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as Turkey. In contrast the world’s two major economic powers have either no paid annual leave at all (the United States) or paid annual leave of one working week only (5 working days in China). The Philippines is the other nation with only 5 working days of paid annual leave.


Public Holidays

The countries with most generous public holidays provisions (16-18 days or even more) are Cambodia, Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. The most commonly found number of public holidays worldwide are 11-13 days.


Weekly Rest Period

24 hours per week is the most commonly found rest period worldwide. Only a limited number of countries provide for 48 hours of weekly rest and these include, among some European countries, Mongolia, Oman, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Ghana & Venezuela. 36-hour weekly rest is found in Europe mostly. Sri Lanka & Argentina are the only Asian & Latin American country to have 36-hour weekly rest. South Sudan & Zambia have no clear weekly rest provisions.


Fixed Term Contracts

Fixed term contracts, if concluded without objective reasons and for long duration, can lead to precarious employment. Most countries either don't put any limit on fixed term contracts or allow the length of fixed term contracts around 5 years. Two-year contracts are mostly found in Africa and Europe. The countries with shortest fixed term contracts include Pakistan, Spain, Morocco & Chile.


Probation Period

Probation periods are pretty common and as a rule last up to 6 months. They are longest in Ireland, Greece, Tunisia, Nepal, Kenya and Uganda (over 6 months). In Asia probation periods are usually 3 months, or less. South Africa, Zambia, and Chile do not have any legal provision to regulate probation period. The probation period is a measure of how precarious employment is. During this period an employee can be fired without notice and the employee therefore cannot file an unfair dismissal complaint if fired during probation.


Contract Termination Notice

Contract termination without prior notice is rare. This situation prevails only in the United States, Mexico, New Zealand, Iran, Iraq, Uruguay and Panama. Everywhere else a notice period is common and usually one month or higher. The contract termination notice period is a measure for the insecurity of an employment relationship. Insecure means that an employer can fire an employee (whatever the reason) without giving any prior notice.


Severance Pay

Most countries provide generous severance payments to workers on termination of service. Severance payments are not found in some European nations as well as Japan & New Zealand. It might be for the reason that unemployment benefits exist in these countries and thus severance payments are not required.


Unemployment Benefits

The unemployment benefits are found in most of the countries. However in many the self-employed are excluded from unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are not generally found in African countries, which provide only severance payments. Benin and Rwanda are the only countries which neither have unemployment benefit nor severance payment.

A special group of legal provisions relates to family and work. They may be used as a yardstick of a government’s support for working parents in raising healthy and mentally well developed children. Relevant provisions are Maternity Leave and Payment, Paternity Leave and Breastfeeding breaks.


Maternity Leave and Payment

Most of the European countries provide relatively long periods of paid maternity leave. 14-25 weeks of maternity leave is the most found provision in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. South Asian, African as well as Latin American countries provide less than 13 weeks of maternity leave. The same pattern applies to the payment of maternity leave where the employer is required to pay.


Paternity Leave

In most countries, new father can benefit from less than one week of paternity leave. Paternity leave is provided in a number of African countries. Most Asian countries do not have such a provision. European countries without such a provision are Ireland, Austria, Norway, Germany, Croatia, Cyprus and the Czech Republic. Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine do not provide for paternity leave either.


Nursing Breaks

Most countries provide paid nursing breaks of one hour, or more, during a normal workday. Moreover, most countries extend such breaks until the nursed child is more than one year old. Australia, the United Kingdom, Finland, Iceland, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Denmark, Israel, Pakistan, Algeria, South Sudan, Zambia, Uganda and Kenya are the only countries with no provision on breastfeeding breaks at all.

From the group of legal regulations which relates to gender- and child protection, the current review highlights Equal Pay, Sexual Harassment and Child Work.


Equal Pay

Almost all countries prescribe equal pay for work of equal value (either through their Constitution, labour code or some other special law). Notable exceptions are Afghanistan, Bolivia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Zambia where no such legal provisions could be found.


Sexual Harassment

The developing economies feature higher levels of sanctions (esp. criminal) for perpetrators of sexual harassment. In the European countries civil remedies for victims are predominant. There are also many countries which have no provisions on prohibition of sexual harassment at workplaces.


The Forced labour prohibitions are found mostly in Constitutions and also in Labour Codes or Criminal Codes. The only country that has no clear provision on forced labour is Saudi Arabia.


Child Work

Most countries require a minimum age for entry into employment of 15 years (the usual school leaving age). Exceptions (14 years) occur and are found in South Asia, Africa and Latin America. As for the minimum age for hazardous work, there seems to be a consensus among countries (18 years). The only outliers on this score are India, Pakistan (14 years) and Mexico, Portugal, Algeria, Chad, Syria, Nepal, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar & Israel (16 years). The compulsory schooling age is most commonly found to be up to 14-16 years.


Trade Union Rights

The current analysis highlight the trade union rights of freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, and the right to strike. It is found that these rights are mostly guaranteed under Constitutions and regulated through Labour Codes, trade union laws or industrial disputes laws.


Overall Conclusion

The practical conclusion of this Decent Work Survey, therefore, is that not the making of new laws, but the implementation of the existing laws is the most urgent task ahead. Governments need to free resources and upgrade their manpower for monitoring and upholding these laws. With the efforts of ILO and by promotion of labour rights through trade agreements (GSP & GSP-Plus schemes), developing countries have enacted necessary legislation that is similar. However, there is a greater divergence and chasm in terms of enforcement, which therefore needs more attention.


National WageIndicator websites feature Decent Work Checks since 2009, enabling the public to permanently consult applicable labour law, per legal issue. The international comparison presented in the current global Decent Work Check review 2015 moreover allows the public to detect the legal issues where their country still lags behind.


About the WageIndicator Foundation

The WageIndicator Foundation was initiated in 2001 to contribute to a more transparent labour market for workers and employers. The WageIndicator Foundation collects, compares and shares labour market information through (online & offline) surveys and desk research. It serves as a freely accessible online library for wage information, labour law and career advice. The WageIndicator Foundation is assisted by world-renowned universities, trade unions and employers’ organisations and currently operates in over 80 countries. Its international staff consists of some 100 specialists worldwide. The WageIndicator Foundation is a global organization reaching millions on a monthly basis.

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