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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May, 2005, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
ILO meet focuses on forced labour
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Geneva

Cambodian garment workers
Standards are needed to promote fair competition, the ILO says
The International Labour Organisation is beginning its annual conference in the Swiss city of Geneva.

All 178 member states of the ILO will meet to discuss work issues around the world, including working hours and youth unemployment.

Forced labour will be a key issue at the conference this year.

The ILO recently reported that 12 million people worldwide are forced to work without their consent. More than half are women and children.

But the ILO says such cases are rarely investigated or prosecuted.

This conference aims to begin drawing up an action plan to combat forced labour.

Burma focus

One country will be in the spotlight: the ILO has repeatedly warned Burma that it must move to eradicate forced labour, without success.

Now the ILO's governing body believes its policy of dialogue with Rangoon is simply not working, and during this conference member states may approve renewed economic sanctions against Burma.

The conference will also discuss working hours.

An ILO survey suggests international standards on hours of work are needed to promote fair competition, but it is a tricky subject and one on which even major European Union countries do not agree.

Britain, for example, has opted out of Europe's maximum 48-hour working week.

And youth unemployment will be a big topic too. Young people are hardest hit when jobs are scarce.

Youth unemployment has reached record levels, the ILO says, and in 2004, fewer than half of young people available for work actually had a job.


SEE ALSO:
Forced labour - global problem
11 May 05 |  Europe


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