Labour | Research Guide International Law

Since humans appeared on earth, we have had to work to secure what we needed to survive or to improve our standard of living. The term labour in its most general use, refers to productive human work. Through much of history, it was not treated as a commodity that was “paid for.” As time passed and societies grew larger and more complex, labour became more specialized. Each person became an expert at doing just a few things or even just one thing. This specialization meant that workers became more productive. The purpose of (international) labour law is to regulate the relation of employers and employees, to make provision for settlement of industrial disputes and to provide for certain other purposes. Employment law, sometimes referred to as labour law, encompasses the massive compilation of statutory laws, administrative rulings, and legal precedents which cover all facets of the employer/employee relationship. To address the problems caused by the industrialization of Europe in the 19th century, Robert Owen of Wales, and Jerome Blanqui and Daniel Legrand of France, among others, brought the need for international cooperation in setting labour standards to international prominence. The reasons articulated for the necessity of cooperation were both benevolent and economic. Cooperation was necessary to eradicate poverty and injustice, not just to protect workers, but also to prevent the social unrest these conditions could engender. Furthermore, international cooperation was necessary because each nation would be at a competitive disadvantage if it imposed higher standards unilaterally. Ultimately, these concerns led to the formation of The International Labour Organization on April 11, 1919 as an affiliated agency of the League of Nations.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on International Labour Law. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's systematic classification → Public international law and subject heading (keyword) International Labour Law are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.

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Mawsūʿat al-lawāʾiḥ wa-al-qarārāt al-wizāriyya al-ʿUmāniyya : ǧamīʿ al-lawāʾiḥ wa-taʿdīlātuhā wa-al-qarārāt al-wizāriyya ḥattá nihāyat 2015 M / Oman. - al-Qāhira : Markaz al-Ġandūr al-ʿIlmī ; al-Qāhira : al-Markaz al-Duwalī li-Tiknūlūǧiyā al-maʿlūmāt wa-al-tadrīb, 2016. - 575 pages. ; 24 cm al-ǧuzʾ al-ṯāliṯ = 3: al-lawāʾiḥ al-munaẓẓama li-al-qawānīn al-madaniyya, al-lawāʾiḥ al-munaẓẓama li-qawānīn al-ʿamal. - 2016
Keywords: Oman, Civil law, Labour law, Legislation,

1. EU citizenship and 'work'
EU citizenship and 'work' : tensions between formal and substantive equality / Hartley Dean. - Cheltenham, UK : Edward Elgar Publishing. - Pages 108-132 In: Reconsidering EU citizenship : contradictions and constraints / edited by Sandra Seubert, Oliver Eberl, Frans van Waarden, ISBN 9781788113533: (2018), Pages 108-132. - 2018
Keywords: European Union, Citizenship, Labour,


Reference works

Books & Articles

Periodicals, serial publications


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  • Dahan, Y., Lerner, H. and Faina Milman-Sivan (eds.), Global Justice and International Labour Rights, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

    Dahan, Y., Lerner, H. and Faina Milman-Sivan (eds.), Global Justice and International Labour Rights, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

    Despite the growing global consensus regarding the need to ensure minimal labour standards, such as adequate safety and health conditions, freedom of association, and the prohibition of child labour, millions of workers across the world continue to work in horrific conditions. Who should be held responsible, both morally and legally, for protecting workers' rights? What moral and legal obligations should individuals and institutions bear towards foreign workers in their countries? Is there any democratic way to generate, regulate, and enforce labour standards in a global labour market? This book addresses these questions by taking a fresh look at the normative assumptions underlying existing and proposed international labour regulations. By focusing on international labour as a particular sphere of justice, it seeks to advance both the contemporary philosophical debate on global justice and the legal scholarship on international labour.

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  • Marx, A., Global Governance of Labour Rights : Assessing the Effectiveness of Transnational Public and Private Policy Initiatives, Cheltenham, UK, Northampton, MA, USA, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015.

    Marx, A., Global Governance of Labour Rights : Assessing the Effectiveness of Transnational Public and Private Policy Initiatives, Cheltenham, UK, Northampton, MA, USA, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015.

    This insightful book incorporates perspectives from several disciplines to provide a unique systematic analysis of emerging public and private initiatives in global labour rights governance. The expert contributors explore the complexities of labour rights governance in a global economy characterized by transnational supply chains. They assess how transnational, intergovernmental and private initiatives aim to address the challenges of global labour rights protection before discussing the effectiveness of these initiatives and presenting new empirical findings. The book concludes with a detailed reflection on how to strengthen the global regime of labour rights governance.

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  • Marassi, S., Blanpain, R., Globalization and Transnational Collective Labour Relations : International and European Framework Agreements at Company Level, Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands, Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 2015.

    Marassi, S., Blanpain, R., Globalization and Transnational Collective Labour Relations : International and European Framework Agreements at Company Level, Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands, Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 2015.

    The severe social pressures brought about by the process of globalization have inevitably led to new modes of governance at company level. More than 250 transnational company agreements (TCAs) have been signed to date, involving more than 160 multinational enterprises (MNEs) and 10 million workers. Yet these initiatives are still very much works in progress, and consequently a full-scale assessment of what has been accomplished so far, what has been learned, and what likely future trends are emerging is much to be desired. This book responds to this challenge.Because of the distinct and early development of international framework agreements (IFAs), an important distinction exists between the latter and European framework agreements at company level (EFAs). This book identifies the similarities and differences between IFAs and EFAs, focusing particularly on how the different features of these two categories are perceived in practice by the signatory parties. The author bases her in-depth study on a detailed comparative analysis of the texts of IFAs and EFAs concluded by MNEs with a total of more than 80,000 employees in 2013, with attention to titles, signatories, sectors involved, content, addressees, duration, revision, renewal, termination, and follow-up procedures, as well as legal status and legal effects.

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  • Bunnemann, F., The Compatibility of the Prohibition of Political Strikes with International and EU Labour Law : Germany's Handling of the Right to Strike, Hamburg, Verlag Dr. Kovac, 2015.

    Bünnemann, F., The compatibility of the prohibition of political strikes with international and EU labour law : Germany's handling of the right to strike, Hamburg, Verlag Dr. Kovač, 2015.

    Since the beginning of the economic crisis in Europe, citizens from countries hit by the crisis have been faced with steep cuts effectuated by the national governments. This gave a new boost to political strikes. In Germany, however, political strikes are prohibited. This thesis examines the compatibility of this prohibition with International and EU Labour Law. The author assesses the case law of the different European courts and interprets the relevant norms of European, International and Domestic law.

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  • Addo, K., Core Labour Standards and International Trade: Lessons from the Regional Context, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht, London, Springer, 2015.

    Addo, K., Core Labour Standards and International Trade : Lessons from the Regional Context, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht, London, Springer, 2015.

    This book examines the labour standards provisions in a number of Regional and Bilateral Trade Agreements, and assesses the potential of using the relevant clauses in these trade agreements as a benchmark for a multilateral approach. Based on the lessons learned from the Regional model, the book proposes a Global Labour and Trade Framework Agreement (GLTFA) combined with a joint ILO/WTO enforcement mechanism to resolve the contentious issue of the link between the CLS and international trade.  The history of the linkage between the Core Labour Standards (CLS) and international trade dates back roughly 150 years, and has recently become one of the most vexing issues facing policy-makers. At the heart of the debate is the question whether or not trade sanctions should be imposed on countries that do not respect the CLS as embodied in multilateral conventions administered by the International Labour Organization (ILO). Concretely, this would entail inserting a social clause in the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, and would trigger the imposition of sanctions on those countries that do not adhere to the CLS.

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  • Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, International Labour Organization (ILO), by Heiko Sauer.
  • Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Labour Law, International, by F.C. Ebert and C. La Hovary.
  • The ILO Library page offers information about the ILO Library in Geneva as well as centralized access to the ILO's online resources. Available resources include more than thirty databases, the ILO Thesaurus, research and topical guides, and news services.
  • NORMLEX is the information system which brings together information on International Labour Standards (such as ratification information, reporting requirements, comments of the ILO's supervisory bodies, etc.) as well as national labour and social security laws.
  • Labordoc is the ILO's database of work-related journal articles. Labordoc provides all ILO publications, as well as comprehensive coverage of work-related material from more than 500 journals. Although Labordoc's coverage is comprehensive, it is not exhaustive, as articles are selected for inclusion. Further, Labordoc focuses its collection on material related to developing nations with an emphasis on empirical literature. The site's interface is available in English, French, and Spanish.
  • LABORSTA offers statistical data for 200 countries and territories arranged by topic, country, or publication. The site also provides thorough definitions and explanations of relevant terminology and methodology. The user can retrieve data for several countries simultaneously or over a selected time period.
  • EPLex summarizes national employment protection law for more than seventy countries, focusing on seven primary topics: the source and scope of regulation, employment contracts, substantive requirements for dismissals, procedural requirements for individual dismissals, collective dismissals for economic reasons, severance pay, and avenues for redress. Within these primary categories, EPLex monitors more than fifty variables. The information is presented in a uniform questionnaire format with references to the relevant legislation. One can browse EPLex by country or by topic.
  • The NATLEX database contains information on the national labour, social security, and human rights legislation of 196 countries. NATLEX presents sources arranged by country or area of law and offers an advanced search feature. Although NATLEX itself is accessible in the ILO's three official languages (English, French, and Spanish), each source is presented in only one of the three. NATLEX is maintained by the ILO International Labour Statistics Department.
  • The TRAVAIL legal database compiles information on employment and working condition laws. The site also provides helpful infosheets and illustrative maps. The scope of TRAVAIL is limited to laws related to working time, minimum wage, and maternity protection. Unlike NATLEX, TRAVAIL summarizes the information rather than retrieving the text of the legislation. One can browse by subject or by country and can select multiple countries and subjects for quick comparisons.
  • Triblex is the case law database of the ILO Administrative Tribunal. Triblex allows users to browse Tribunal case law by session, organization or keyword. The site also features an advanced search function which allows users to search by term, date, organization, session, keyword, or judgment number. Triblex also offers the enabling statute and rules of the Administrative Tribunal.
  • The ILO's SafeWork Bookshelf site contains four important resources. First, the ILO Encyclopedia of Occupational Health an Safety offers in-depth articles on occupational hazards and conditions. The Encyclopedia is arranged by topic in 18 parts over four volumes. The fourth volume contains helpful guides which explain how to use the encyclopedia. Second, the collection of International Chemical Safety Cards presents medical and safety information on a large number of chemicals, arranged alphabetically. Third, SafeWork Bookshelf compiles ILO Conventions and Recommendations related to occupational Health and Safety. Last, ILO Codes of Practice are guides which offer recommended practices on several occupational topics. Codes are prepared by experts and approved by the Governing Body. SafeWork Bookshelf is clearly organized and easy to navigate.
  • CISDoc is a database of bibliographic information on occupational health and safety materials including regulations, ILO conventions, books, and journal articles. Because CISDoc offers only bibliographic material, the results are citations and not full text documents.


  • Dutch Parliamentary elections 2012: a more flexible Dutch dismissal system!

    Europe, Euro financial crisis, pension age, healthcare: a few hot topics during the Dutch Parliamentary elections 2012. Another main issue during the several political campaigns was reform of the Dutch dismissal law. This blog will briefly give a broad outline of the dismissal system in the Netherlands and the plans of reform.

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