It's about partnership: everything a business needs to know about social dialogue and sound industrial relations

  • 27 February 2018

The global partnership ‘Global Deal for decent work and inclusive growth’ was initiated by the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven together with the ILO and OECD. Its focus is on the potential of social dialogue and sound industrial relations to help bring about decent work and reduce inequality, writes guest blogger Josefin Unger Belin of the Global Deal in the second of our Leadership Series of blogs. 

We’re living in a rapidly changing world. Globalisation, technological advances and digitalisation are dramatically changing how people live and work.

This creates many benefits but also inequalities that have negative impacts on individuals and the societies we live in. In consequence, many people feel disempowered, with little influence over their own lives.

Yet, by joining forces, we can contribute to reducing the possible inequalities arising from globalisation. And we can also increase productivity, inclusive growth and contribute to sustaina­ble development.

As emphasized in the UN Sustainability Agenda goal 17, partnerships are key.

In this second of our Leadership Series of monthly blogs, Josefin Unger Belin, Deputy Director of the Global Deal Initiative in Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, writes about social dialogue and its potential for ending inequality. ETI's Leadership Series commemorates our 20th Anniversary and links business to human rights. The aim of the series is to re-affirm the case for ethical trade and encourage a constructive approach that looks forward to the future while learning from the past. In view of ETI's interest in and commitment to social dialogue, we are currently in the process of joining the Global Deal.

Social dialogue and sound industrial relations

The Global Deal is a multi-stakeholder partnership bringing together governments, businesses, unions and other organisations with the overall goal of pursuing development through decent work and inclusive growth.

Its focus is on the potential of social dialogue and sound industrial relations to effect change.

Effective social dialogue can contribute to decent work and quality jobs and thus to greater equality and inclusive growth, benefiting workers, companies and societies alike.

Consequently, the Global Deal brings together companies, trade unions and other organisations – and also states.

It creates political direction and impetus to enhance social dialogue, sound industrial relations, freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Why do we need the initiative?

In too many places around the world, workers are denied basic human rights and some are even persecuted and killed.

Children are still forced to work in the most inhumane conditions, and migrants are exploited in horrific ways.

The statistics are alarming:

  • Around 1.4 billion workers around the world, most of them women, are in insecure jobs or in the informal sector.
  • Every year, there are over 2.7 million work-related deaths.
  • 712 million women and men are working but not earning enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

The challenge of reducing inequality

It is becoming increasingly clear that one of the great challenges of our time is to reduce inequalities.

In the western world we see growing public scepticism concerning globalization and growing populist forces linked to fear for how technological advances will change the future of work.

By addressing the problems in the global labour market we can build social cohesion, trust and confidence, something that is needed more than ever in today's world.

Crucially, freedom of association, decent working conditions and social dialogue are central in promoting sustainable economic development and human rights.

Three components that accelerate action

The Global Deal’s overall goal is to pursue decent work and inclusive growth. To achieve this, it has three principal components:

  • To encourage action through voluntary commitments by the associated partners.
  • To increase the knowledge base about social dialogue and sound industrial relations.
  • To provide platforms for sharing experiences and best practices to increase awareness of the benefits of social dialogue.

Through partners’ commitments we can accelerate action, and encourage and inspire others to take more and longer steps.

We already see important commitments being made by Global Deal partners.

These include taking on problems in supply chains, developing programmes for enhancing social dialogue within their companies and supplier base, and for improving health and safety for all employees, to promote inclusive growth and to strengthen workers’ voice.

We also see countries around the world committing to strengthening cooperation structures at national levels.

And we see concrete public-private partnerships in low-income countries, especially within the textile and garment sector.

These projects seek to strengthen industrial relations and social dialogue so as to improve wages and other working conditions for workers.

Growing the Global Deal

To date almost 80 partners have joined the Global Deal.

With more partners joining the initiative we can share and promote joint and contextualized solutions while still representing different interests.

This is why we want businesses, trade unions, other organizations and countries to join this growing partnership. We want them to help identify new commitments and participate in a common purpose for decent work and inclusive economic development.

With the challenges we see today, it is more important than ever to improve social dialogue and sound industrial relations in all parts of the world.

Find out more about joining the Global Deal partnership.



ETI's blog covers issues at the intersection of business, news and ethical trade. We welcome a range of insights and opinions from our guest bloggers, though don't necessarily agree with everything they say.