Category Archives: Open Forum

The ILO law and the present crisis

Jean-Michel Servais[1],

In public debate today on the future of labour, it becomes clear that social policies and their implementing legislation will have to adapt to more open and competitive markets, and to a way of organizing production that is at one and the same time more complex, segmented and dependent on new techniques. It is difficult indeed to question the need for adjusting the labour law provisions to the new systems of production information and communication. The problem is therefore not so much to know if, but how the remodelling takes place. Bringing social policies up to date re-ignites the debate on the optimal synthesis between the guarantees given to workers, job creation, and competitiveness, or in other words, between development and the values and rights that a given national community holds dear.

This paper focuses on the difficulties the standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) are facing today, in front of the set of economic and social crises that have occurred for more than two decades, especially the one that part of Europe is facing today. I will first examine the main impediments to the implementation of the international labour standards. I will then identify innovative ways of adapting them.

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Labour law and welfare: Old and new questions

International Society for Labour and Social Security Law (ISLSSL)

Position paper (8 June 2013)

Prof. Tiziano Treu

The labour law and the welfare systems shaped during the last century in many market economy countries are facing a major challenge. The great economic and social transformations driven by two main factors, globalization and technological innovations, have altered the very basis on which these systems were founded. The power of the nation states and of the national legislators to control the labour market and labour conditions is being challenged. Fordist large companies and the industrial unions are weakened and are less capable of or interested in concluding centralized collective agreements regulating the employment of their constituents. Stable subordinate employment, which was the central object of labour law, has given way to diversified non-standard work arrangements, often casual and economically dependent in spite of being formally autonomous. The impact of these challenges, however, varies considerably across countries.

While spreading its effects horizontally in the ‘flat-word’ by enhancing the interconnections between national and regional systems, globalization is at the same time increasing differences, fostering under a new perspective the debate on the ‘variety of capitalism.’ The so called BRICS countries do not face, at least at the moment and for very different reasons, many of the challenges that are incumbent upon the Western and especially the European worlds of capitalism. While Fordist structures of a new-type (with highly hierarchal and even authoritarian characters) are rapidly developing in the Chinese communist-market-economy, the role of the nation-State varies greatly in the national economies. China is, yet again, a prominent example of the powerful tools still enjoyable by an active-interventionist State.  But even within the Western world the crisis of the nation-State in the wake of globalization spreads very unevenly among countries, reaching its peak in the European Union context.

In many newly developed countries  the legislators are searching the best way to build, often from scratch, their labour law and welfare system, not necessarily following the path and categories prevailing in the old welfare states. They have to take into account their different traditions and starting point  and to combine the task of laying down the basic elements of these systems with the urgency  to respond to the new and diversified needs of a rapidly grown and modernizing economy. An open question is how and to what extent international relations and practices will influence the evolution of the various national systems, towards a convergence or in diverging directions. (see below paragraph 8)

If it is true that the changed environment has eroded the foundations of labour law, no minor adjustment is sufficient, both for the old and new legislators, to restore its role as a key instrument  of social protection and of social progress. A revision is needed both of the objective and of the techniques  of our discipline. This is an arduous task to which all social and political actors, but also intellectuals and practitioners, should contribute.

The financial and economic crisis which exploded in 2008 has made the need for changes more urgent, even in the economically most robust national context.

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Call for Papers for the 2013 Marco Biagi Award

To stimulate scholarly activity and broaden academic interest in comparative labour and employment law, the International Association of Labour Law Journals announces a Call for Papers for the 2013 Marco Biagi Award. The award is named in honor of the late Marco Biagi, a distinguished labour lawyer, victim of terrorism because of his commitment to civil rights, and one of the founders of the Association. The Call is addressed to doctoral students, advanced professional students, and academic researchers in the early stage of their careers.

  1. The Call requests papers concerning comparative and/or international labour or employment law and employment relations, broadly conceived.  Research of an empirical nature within the Call’s purview is most welcome.
  2. Submissions will be evaluated by an academic jury to be appointed by the Association.
  3. Papers accepted by the jury will be assured publication in a member journal.
  4. Papers may be submitted preferably in English, but papers in French, or Spanish will also be accepted.  The final version should not significantly exceed 50,000 characters which is about twenty printed pages.

  5. The author or authors of the papers selected by the jury will be invited to present the work at the Association’s 2013 meeting in Bordeaux.  Efforts are being undertaken to attach an honarium and travel expenses for the presentation of the paper.  Until that effort bears fruit, however, the Association hopes that home institutional funds would be available to support the researcher’s presentation.
  6. The deadline for submission is March 31, 2013.  Submissions should be transmitted electronically to both Lavoro e diritto at and the Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal at

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