Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

News 23/02/2022

Commission sets out strategy to promote decent work worldwide and prepares instrument for ban on forced labour products

Today, the Commission presents its Communication on Decent Work Worldwide that reaffirms the EU’s commitment to champion decent work both at home and around the world. The elimination of child labour and forced labour is at the heart of this endeavour.

Young boy washing a car with a hose

The latest figures show that decent work is still not a reality for many people around the world and more remains to be done: 160 million children – one in ten worldwide – are in child labour, and 25 million people are in a situation of forced labour.

The EU promotes decent work across all sectors and policy areas in line with a comprehensive approach that addresses workers in domestic markets, in third countries and in global supply chains. The Communication adopted today sets out the internal and external policies the EU uses to implement decent work worldwide, putting this objective at the heart of an inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery from the pandemic.

As part of this comprehensive approach, the Commission is preparing a new legislative instrument to effectively ban products made by forced labour from entering the EU market, as announced by President von der Leyen in her State of the Union address 2021.

This instrument will cover goods produced inside and outside the EU, combining a ban with a robust enforcement framework. It will build on international standards and complement existing horizontal and sectoral EU initiatives, in particular the due diligence and transparency obligations.

Key tools for decent work worldwide

The Communication sets out upcoming and existing EU tools in four areas:

  • EU policies and initiatives with outreach beyond the EU:
    • EU policies setting standards that are global frontrunners for corporate responsibility and transparency, such as the proposal for a directive on corporate sustainability due diligence and the forthcoming legislative proposal on forced labour
    • EU guidance and legal provisions on socially sustainable public procurement will help the public sector lead by example
    • EU sectoral policies, for instance on food, minerals and textiles, strengthen respect for international labour standards
  • EU bilateral and regional relations:
    • EU trade policy, which promotes international labour standards
    • Respect for labour rights in third countries is an essential part of EU human rights policies
    • EU enlargement and neighbourhood policy, which promotes decent work in neighbouring countries
  • The EU in international and multilateral fora:
    • EU support for the implementation of UN instruments on decent work, and the EU’s active contribution to setting labour standards through the ILO
    • EU support for the reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to integrate the social dimension of globalisation
    • In the G20 and G7 formats, the EU works with other global economic powers to promote decent work
  • Engagement with stakeholders and in global partnerships:
    • EU support for social partners to ensure respect of labour rights in supply chains
    • EU engagement with civil society actors to promote safe and enabling environments for civil society
    • EU support for global partnerships and multi-stakeholder initiatives on decent work, in areas such as occupational safety and health

As part of its “Just and sustainable economy package”, the Commission today also tables a proposal for a Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence. The proposal aims to foster sustainable and responsible corporate behaviour throughout global value chains.  

Next steps

The Commission invites the European Parliament and the Council to endorse the approach set out in this Communication and to work together to implement its actions. The Commission will regularly report on the implementation of this Communication.

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