DFID fails the TUC’s Decent Work test

I’ve got a post over at Left Foot Forward summarising our new report “A decent job?” which assess DFID for its contribution towards the ‘Decent Work Agenda’ – a set of policy objectives developed and promoted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). We  gave DFID 25 out of 56. Yes, that’s a few points short of a pass.

Photo: ETI/Claudia Janke

A few quick additional reflections for the Progressive Development Forum:

  1. DFID is at the back of the class when it comes to the world of work

It’s no surprise that DFID, like most bilateral donors, doesn’t organise its work around the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda. (despite the Decent Work MDG facing a “very signfiicant deficit”). But unlike nearly every government donor it effectively steers clear of trade unions and the ILO.

2. But it is bending over backwards to help business.

There are oodles of examples, but I was struck by a project in Rwanda that helped lower the time it takes to register a business from nine days down to two. Is giving an entrepreneur an extra seven days to get on with it really a bigger poverty alleviation priority, than say, preventing injuries at work – a massively ignored cause of people being pushed into poverty? Can we instead have a development community that is fighting over who can support the most health and safety inspectors?

3. A thousand flowers do bloom at DFID, but they can be hard to spot.

To be fair DFID is doing something interesting under every criteria we set. For example, it is supporting the training of 30 labour inspectors to identify and combat child labour. But these tend to be tiny isolated examples. After all, there are 215 million kids trapped in child labour.

4. Where DFID is engaging with the world of work, sometimes we wish they weren’t.

I came across this howler in DFID’s  latest annual report (at page 64) on South Africa:

We helped make the case to hold back legislation which would have stopped labour brokers offering temporary employment. The proposed legislation did not proceed, saving 850,000 jobs.

I’ve just asked our South Africa colleagues if they think undermining their campaign to combat precarious work was a good use of British taxpayers money. I’ll see if I can post their reply, but in the meantime check out the The Triangular Trap a new report by IndustriALL, the new global union federation for manufacturing, which documents the alarming rise and impoverishing impact of precarious working.

5. Finally, which international development NGO wants to be the first to volunteer to take our “Decent Work” test?

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