About the Index

Press release - Leading employment lawyer and senator Mirjam de Blécourt receives the new Labour Rights Index 2020 of the WageIndicator Foundation

AMSTERDAM - The Netherlands – Leading Labour & Employment lawyer Mirjam de Blécourt of international law firm Baker McKenzie and Senator of the Dutch Parliament receives the new Labour Rights Index 2020 at the first official  presentation. The freely accessible Index is co-created by the WageIndicator Foundation and its affiliate Centre for Labour Research. The detailed market Index provides objective legal data of the labour market in 115 countries. It is the first comprehensive and legally recognized Index and meant to function as the new comparative international qualification standard. “The assumption that only rich countries are the best-performing is a misunderstanding. And that gives hope .” According to Paulien Osse, Director of WageIndicator Foundation.

The Labour Rights Index is the flagship product of the WageIndicator Foundation, a Dutch non-profit, founded in 2001. The aim of the Index is to provide more labour market transparency for the benefit of employees, trade unions and employers by sharing and comparing information on minimum wages, living wages, international comparable labour law and careers.

Paulien Osse (left) and Mirjam de Blécourt, presenting the Index

The Index shows labour standards in ranges of minimum wages, general working hours, annual leave, public holidays, parental leave, right to strike, employment of children etc. The Index is therefore a useful benchmark tool in stimulating policy debate as it can help in exposing challenges and identifying best practices. 

The Labour Right Index makes it easier for employees to find the legal and minimum wages rights relevant to their situation and make well-informed decisions for the better. The use of the Index is recommended for employees, employers, international organizations, national governments, as well as national labour market institutions and civil society organizations. 

Key data & insights Labour Rights Index 2020

The Labour Rights Index looks at a person’s whole working lifespan and identifies the presence of labour rights, or lack thereof, in national legal systems worldwide. In Canada employees have less than 3 weeks annual leave. In Guinea employees receive 30 paid vacation days. With 58,5 weeks maternity leave new mothers are best off in Bulgaria. The US is the only country that has no right to give new parents paid time off. 

The Index shows that in 43 out of 115 countries the maximum working hours and overtime is 57 hours per week. In Thailand, working hours inclusive of overtime may extend to 84 hours per week. When you are an employee in Kenya, the general working hours is 52 hours per week, this is 17 hours per week more than in France where the general weekly working hours are 35 hours. Every worker enjoys public holidays. In Cambodia employees have a record of 27 public holidays compared to Tunisia where employees have only 6 public holidays. A difference of 21 working days. In 38 countries you have the right to strike as an employee, this means in 77 countries the right to strike is either prohibited or severely restricted. 

The Index also covers provision of basic social protection to gig economy workers, especially when they are considered self employed or independent contractors. More than 90% countries in the Index provide access to basic social protection to the gig economy workers. 

Labour market and COVID-19
Labour markets worldwide have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. U.N. agency the International Labour Organization estimates job disruptions for more than 300 million workers in the second quarter of 2020 alone. In view of the current worldwide labour market insecurity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is opportune time to address the protection of all labour rights for all workers, irrespective of employment or contract status or sector of employment. By highlighting state of legislation on key labour rights, the Labour Rights Index serves that purpose and can be used to bring much needed reforms.

Quote Mirjam de Blécourt, Labour & Employment lawyer of international law firm Baker McKenzie and member of the Senate of the Dutch Parliament said: ‘'The Labour Rights Index is a groundbreaking new open resource that makes important information on labour and employment rights freely available for everyone, from employers and policy-makers to low-income workers dealing with challenging working conditions. I share WageIndicator Foundation's view that open access to objective information on for example minimum wages, working time limits and dismissal rights is the first step to a more equitable world, and highly recommend this Index.'

Quote Paulien Osse, founder and Director of WageIndicator Foundation, said: ‘Universal labour guarantees and basic labour protections should be available to everyone. There is a lack of coherent and independent labour market information with easy access in many countries worldwide. We have a clear mission to create more transparency that is freely accessible. Our dream is to create an excellent objective indicator for all countries worldwide to make sure that everybody is treated fairly and has access to all workplace rights. '

Background Labour Rights Index 

The Labour Rights Index is the flagship product of the WageIndicator Foundation, a Dutch non-profit, founded in 2001 (In Dutch Stichting Loonwijzer). The aim of the Index is to provide more labour market transparency for the benefit of employees, trade unions and employers by sharing and comparing information on minimum wages, living wages, international comparable labour law and careers. Mapping national labour markets is crucial, especially in countries where information is not easily accessible on paper or employees do not have access to digital information. WageIndicator Foundation is a worldwide organisation, now active in 140 countries. 

The Labour Rights Index is a work in progress. Each year, a new edition will be released. The future editions of the Index will include for example provision of day care/childcare centres at the workplace, fair treatment of part-time workers equivalent to comparable full-time workers. Where the first Index now covers 115 countries, WageIndicator plans to extend coverage to 140 countries in coming years.

For more information 

Labour Rights Index 2020 report 

Labour Rights Index Visual

30 September, 2020

About the Labour Rights Index

The Labour Rights Index measures major aspects of employment regulation that affect a worker during the employment life cycle in 115 countries.

The Labour Rights Index covers 10 topics/indicators and 46 evaluation criteria. All of these are based on substantive elements of the Decent Work Agenda. The criteria are all grounded in UDHR, five UN Conventions, five ILO Declarations, 35 ILO Conventions, and four ILO Recommendations. 

The Labour Rights Index is based on more than a decade of research by WageIndicator and the Centre for Labour Research. More than 30 WageIndicator team members have contributed to the Index by providing relevant data informing various indicators under the Index.

Why did we want this Labour Rights Index?

The Labour Rights Index is a comparative tool, an international qualification standard, which allows its users to compare labour legislation around the world. In a way, it helps you navigate the labour markets of 115 countries. The labour market regulation affecting around 80% of the 3.5 billion global labour force has been analysed and scored under the Index. The aim is to make all this abstract legal information accessible to workers in order to improve their working lives. Similarly, the work is useful for national and trans-national employers to ensure compliance with local labour legislation. 

What is Unique?

Despite the availability of multiple indices measuring performance, the Labour Rights Index is the most comprehensive one yet in terms of scope. The Index looks at every aspect of the working lifespan of a worker and identifies the presence of labour rights, or the lack of it, in national legal systems worldwide. It has 10 indicators and 46 evaluation criteria. The scoring is based on an analysis of thousands of pages of labour legislation. Instead of engaging outside experts, the work is done solely by the WageIndicator Labour Law Office, i.e., the Centre for Labour Research with support from WageIndicator country teams

Who needs to use it and why?

The Labour Rights Index is essentially directed at governments and international organisations, targeting trade union federations, multilateral organisations and national level organisations like government agencies. However, most of all, the Index can be used by workers. The importance of labour legislation cannot be overemphasized since well-drafted and inclusive laws are still a precondition for attaining decent work.

National scores can be used as starting points of negotiations and reforms by civil society organizations. Ratings can be made prerequisites for international socio-economic agreements to ensure compliance with labour standards, similar to EU's GSP+ and USA’s GSP which require compliance in law and practice with certain labour standards in order to avail certain trade benefits through reduced tariffs. The Labour Rights Index is also a useful benchmarking tool that can be used in stimulating policy debate as it can help in exposing challenges and identifying best practices. The Index provides meaningful input into policy discussions to improve labour market protections at the country level. The Labour Rights Index is a repository of “objective and actionable” data on labour market regulation along with the best practices which can be used by countries worldwide to initiate necessary reforms. The comparative tool can also be used by Labour Ministries for finding the best practices within their own regions and around the world.

What are its uses for workers?

The Labour Rights Index can work as an efficient aid for workers as well to gauge the labour rights protections in labour laws across countries. For migrant as well as posted workers, Labour Rights Index country profiles along with WageIndicator Decent Work Checks, provide necessary information on workplace rights in both origin and destination countries. With increased internet use, availability of reliable and objective legal rights information is the first step towards compliance. The Labour Rights Index helps in achieving that step.

Full Publication: Online 30 September 2020

The Labour Right Index 2020 is a WageIndicator publication. Check our publication list.

The history of the Index

It was way back in 2009, when a Pakistani scholar from Cornell University reached me online. He identified himself as Iftikhar Ahmad, student of comparative labour law, and wanted to know why Pakistan was not among the 50-odd countries we were working in at the time. Well, simply because we have not yet found a suitable counterpart in the country, my standard answer must have been. 'Could he not qualify?', Iftikhar wrote back. He liked what we were doing, he said, and he also wanted to dedicate his working life to the interests of the common working man, woman and family. He was studying at Cornell and would return home to Islamabad, where he would restart working as a career civil servant for the Pakistani Government. So, indeed, why not, I mused. Let’s give it a try. And that is how we embarked on an adventurous and truly rewarding partnership that, 10 years later, has culminated into the first comprehensive Labour Rights Index with global outreach, covering 115 countries in 2020 - and counting. 

Over the past decade, Iftikhar and I have had at least a thousand online conversations and - when travelling was still easy - at least a dozen meetings in Islamabad, Amsterdam, Geneva and some other places where and when our work brought us together. Iftikhar, a methodical and systematic thinker with a strong bent for research, had recognized that we, at WageIndicator, collected data on wages and labour rights in a highly structured way. Our common systems approach provided the framework and directed our mutual brain picking. This happy meeting of inquisitive minds is the second crucial strand in our enduring cooperation - next to our shared drive that the work we do should benefit the working man and woman of meagre means, who make up the public at large in any country.

It so happened that the Decent Work Check, a nascent tool, that we at WageIndicator had been experimenting with (online and in print) in rural Africa and Central America, became the hub of our intense and intensifying exchanges. After much initial tampering, sculpting and a lot of scrutinizing, it today stands as the legal backbone of our pioneering Labour Rights Index 2020 and would continue to do so for its future editions. Moreover, our mature Decent Work Check proves to be of great value for national WageIndicator websites in 115 countries, and also in WageIndicator projects at the factory and plantation level in Indonesia, Ethiopia and Uganda, empowering (female) garment workers and flower growers.

I look forward to our continued cooperation with Iftikhar and his team at the Centre for Labour Research, along the lines that have brought us - and many others - so much: professionally, intellectually and as friends.

Paulien Osse, Director WageIndicator Foundation