Denial of right to work

Other Names:
Violation of the right to work

Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: (a) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment; (b) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work; (c) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection; (d) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.  


[Industrialized countries] Since production in the capitalist system is based on profit-motive and not on necessity, the right to work is not recognized. At the same time no adequate provision is made for social welfare. The denial of the right to work is effectively a denial to bring together individual and national development.

[Developing countries] An International Labour Organization report, the World Labour Report (1995), explains that the employment situation in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, is determined by local market conditions which continue to discourage both domestic and foreign investment. The explanations provided by the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) are far from satisfactory, especially when he states that African countries should undertake major reforms. Another explanation may however be found in the injustice and imbalance engendered by the world economic order. The ILO report suggests that the only area where Africa has not been marginalized is that of aid. The "aid" in question could easily be discontinued entirely if the world's wealth were distributed equitably among all nations.

Shortages or serious crises have inevitable consequences on the labour market with increasingly frequent recessions hampering the development of any policy aimed at improving the conditions of the worker and his family. Unemployment becomes a daily concern for the individual as well as for society and the search for work a priority. Workers and their families who are affected by job instability or insecurity are extremely vulnerable.

Workers also face serious risks in performing certain jobs which they are forced to accept because of the difficult economic situation. Nowadays, the ILO conventions prescribing workplace hygiene measures are never observed anywhere. This is a serious violation of the worker's rights. Migrant workers are certainly those most affected because of their clandestine recruitment and sometimes even of the complicity of the host State. Violations of the right to work take several forms: (a) Substantial falls in wage levels, with corresponding declines in living standards; (b) Increased levels of unemployment; (c) Reductions in worker protection in terms of occupational health and safety standards; (d) Limitations on the right to strike; (e) Weakened bargaining power of the working class; and (f) Many violent social conflicts that can lead to serious political and economic crises. These are the main consequences of violations.

Broader Problems:
Denial of human rights
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
Problem Type:
C: Cross-sectoral problems
Date of last update
17.10.2021 – 07:48 CEST