The Declaration makes it clear that these rights are universal, and that they apply to all people in all States – regardless of the level of economic development. It particularly mentions groups with special needs, including the unemployed and migrant workers. It recognizes that economic growth alone is not enough to ensure equity, social progress and to eradicate poverty.

The declaration covers four fundamental principles and rights at work

Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining

Collective bargaining, as way for workers and employers to reach agreement on issues affecting the world of work, is inextricably linked to freedom of association. The right of workers and employers to establish their independent organizations is the basic prerequisite for collective bargaining and social dialogue. The right to strike has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right or workers and their organizations and as an intrinsic corollary to the right to organize. These fundamental rights are still not enjoyed by millions around the world, and where these rights are recognized, there continue to be challenges in applying them. In some countries certain categories of workers are denied the right of association and workers and employers organizations are illegally suspended or their internal affairs are subject to interference. In extreme cases trade unionists are threatened, arrested or even killed.

Elimination of all forms or forced and compulsory labour

The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work obligues member States to eliminate forced labour. A work relationship should be freely chosen and free from threats.

Countries may have definitions of forced labour that are more comprehensive than the ILO,s. The ILO sets minimum standards that fix the bottom line below which individual countries should not fall, but they can naturally achieve higher standards of protection of workers.

Forced Labour occurs where work or service is exacted by the State or individuals who have the will and power to threaten workers with severe deprivations such as withholding food or land or wages, physical violence or sexual abuse, restricting peoples movements or locking them up.

Effective abolition of child labour

The general minimum age for admission to employment should not be less than 15 years. But developing countries may make certain exceptions to this, and a minimum age of 14 years may be applied where the economy and educational facilities are insufficiently developed. Sometimes, light work may be performed by children two years younger than the general minimum age.

Types of work now dubbed the worst forms of child labour are however totally unacceptable for all children under the age of 18 years, and their abolition is a matter for urgent and immediate action. These forms include such inhumane practices as slavery, trafficking, debt bondage and other forms of forced labour, prostitution and pornography, forced recruitment of children for military purposes, and the use of children for illicit activities such as the trafficking of drugs. Forms of dangerous work that can harm the health, safety or morals of children.

Elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation

Discrimination at work can affect men or women on the basis of their sex, or because their race or skin colour, national extraction or social origin, religion, or political opinions differ from those of others. Often countries decide to ban distinctions or exclusions and forbid discrimination on other grounds as well, such as disability, HIV status or age. Discrimination at work denies opportunities for individuals and robs societies of what those people can and could contribute.

Discrimination in employment or occupation may be direct or indirect. Direct discrimination exists when laws, rules or practices explicitly cite a particular ground, such as sex, race, etc. to deny equal opportunities.

Indirect discrimination occurs where rules or practices appear on the surface to be neutral but in practice lead to exclusions.

ILO principles fix minimum thresholds. National laws and practices may well be broader and include more comprehensive approaches for the elimination of discrimination at work.