International Labour Issues

The Department of Employment manages Australia's engagement with the International Labour Organization (ILO), a specialised agency of the United Nations, on international labour issues. Australia is also a member of the ILO Governing Body, which is the ILO’s key policy-making body that provides guidance to the ILO and its Director-General.

The department is responsible for:

  • managing the Australian Government’s reporting requirements to meet its obligations under ratified ILO Conventions
  • considering ratification of identified ILO Conventions as and when required by the Government
  • engaging in Australia’s technical aid assistance to ILO activities in the Asia-Pacific region, including through the Australian-ILO Partnership Agreement 2010-15
  • providing advice to the Australian Government on a range of international labour issues, including in trade matters
  • representing Australia at key international meetings, including the annual ILO International Labour Conference.
  • meetings with the International Labour Affairs Committee, where the Australian Government and Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), and the Australian Council of Trade Unions discuss international labour issues.

The Australian Government also engages with the ACCI and the ACTU on international labour issues primarily through participation in the ILO’s annual International Labour Conference attended by around 5000 delegates representing governments, and employers’ and workers’ organisations from the ILO’s 185 member States. The International Labour Conference has many tasks, chiefly the adoption and supervision of Conventions and Recommendations and a global platform for the examination of labour and social issues.


Australia is also required to table the text of new ILO Conventions and Recommendations in the Parliament of Australia. Most recently, Recommendation No. 204 concerning the Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy was tabled in Parliament on 3 May 2016.

Labour Provisions in Free Trade Agreements

The department provides advice and assistance to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on labour issues that may arise in trade matters. Labour provisions feature in the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) and are currently being negotiated in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).

AUSFTA includes detailed provisions to enforce domestic labour laws and uphold the ILO’s Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work 1998, including special provisions on dispute settlement applicable to the labour and environment chapters.

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