The International Labour Organisation (ILO)'s effectiveness in promoting labour standards might be questioned.
Firstly, many conventions were set and ratified decades ago, and in such a fast-changing and globalised environment like ours, they may be out of date (Standing, n.d.).
Another weak point could be that it is hard to find a common agreement on labour issues that might satisfy all member states. If we take into consideration wages for example, convention 131 dated 1970 is probably too generic about acceptable minimum wages and not so effective. On the other hand, we cannot even expect it to set specific standards, such as a percentage or a ratio, due to the fact that it should achieve a consensus among all member states, and member states are in very different economic conditions from each other. In article 11 of convention 189 dated 2011, it is written that member states should guarantee the minimum wage coverage “where such coverage exists”. Such a phrase may be freely intepreted and easily bypassed by member states and Global Multinational Enterprises (MNEs).
Moreover, the effectiveness of ILO's conventions such as theses ones about wages, might be questioned in terms of enforcement. They are ratified on a voluntary basis. For example, China Vietnam and Indonesia have not ratified thse conventions yet. Probably, if these governments were to increase labourers' wages to a minimum standard they would become less competitive in the worlwide market and MNEs might move their production factories to other countries where the weak legislation could let them exploit local labour force (Pangsapa and Smith, 2011). Let us take Nike as an example. When in South Korea and Taiwan wages increased and workers became more powerful and unionised, Nike moved out and opened their factories in cheaper countries like China Indonesia and Vietnam (Wilsey, n.d.).
There in Indonesia, in 1998, a factory worker would get paid only $1.25 per day (Keady, n.d.). As we can see, there may be conflicting interests among states, MNEs and unions' representatives in setting and enforcing ILSs, but it seems MNEs are much more influential than the other two parties and this seems to weaken ILO's effectiveness in promoting labour standards.
Another critique may be raised about the Tripartite Meeting on the Future of Employment in the Tobacco Sector in which there are several resolutions to protect tobacco industry labourers' rights. However, the assumption whether this industry is ethical seems not to be questioned. Then, again, probably this tripartism may serve the interests of the most powerful.
Finally, if we consider child labour, this issue could also be quite controversial. Firstly, it still exists in many parts of the world like India, where children may start to work at the age of five (Talerico, n.d.).
However, banning child labour may not only prevent children in developing countries from building their own future, but it may also create problems to their families which need to count also on their children for a decent life (McVeigh, 2016). This view shows the delicate balance between universal human rights and culturally relative human rights, considering that society and life in developing countries are totally different from the ones in the developed world.
Besides, let us take a developed country like Italy as an example. About a century ago just after World War I, 30% of children from 10 to 14 worked (Ortiz, n.d.). In 1981 Italy ratified the convention 138 dated 1973, and stated that the minimum age for work is 15. If this convention had been set before, preventing children from working would have probably put many Italian families in difficulty, which is what might happen currently in developing countries.
Therefore, are all conventions as valid in a developed country as they are in a developing country as well as in different periods of a state's history? Or may conventions be born from western prejudices and policies? Probably it is also easier to make an agreement among states beloning to the same region of the world rather than across the whole world, as they may be driven by the same economic interests or they may support culturally similar rights.
In conclusion, probably ILO might not be so effective in promoting labour standards, but it is positive to have such a supranational organisation which, despite its limitations, tries to remind all states, MNEs and workers that some labour standards exist and should be met.