A Call for Justice for All Young Workers on International Workers’ Day: Why the ILO Convention C190 Matters

It’s International Workers’ Day! Today, we stand in solidarity with young workers worldwide, celebrating each of our unique contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) no matter who we are, where we are, or how we work. 

This year, it is vital that we recognise the millions of young people who work under legal systems that fail to protect their rights. Too often, our laws contain serious blind spots that expose young workers to workplace discrimination and sexual harassment, undermining their potential and well-being.

Over 190 countries have significant gaps in legal protections against workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. Youth, particularly those at the lowest levels of the workplace, are disproportionately affected by these issues. Young women are especially vulnerable, as they are twice as likely to experience sexual violence and harassment at work.

Young people are demanding change…

“Violence and harassment in the workplace shouldn’t be normalised merely because they have existed for ages. Traumas of the past must not be tragedies of the future!”

Dyandra Nararya. UN Volunteer and Aspiring Human Rights Advisor, Unlock Jobs AG Member from Indonesia

Young people have the most to lose from these legal gaps, and the most to gain from demanding change. As we transition from the ECOSOC Youth Forum, held in New York last week, to the SDG Summit in September, we must maintain the call for governments to adopt and implement effective measures to protect young workers, including ratifying the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention C190.

The Convention C190 aims to eradicate violence and harassment in the workplace, with a particular emphasis on sexual harassment. Asides from the protection that it provides against various forms of workplace abuse, the Convention has also extended the scope of protection to cover non-traditional work settings, such as informal, home-based, and online work environments, ensuring that all young workers in diverse employment situations are safeguarded, acknowledging the gender-specific challenges faced by young women, and working towards creating safe, inclusive, and respectful workplaces for all.

Since the adoption of the treaty in 2019, over 25 countries, including Nigeria, South Africa, France, and recently Canada, have ratified ILO Convention C190. However, more countries must follow suit, including those with significant legal gaps in workplace protections. We urge countries such as Brazil, Mexico, India, and the United States to join the fight to end workplace violence and harassment by ratifying Convention C190. By embracing this resolution, countries demonstrate their commitment to creating a culture of respect, inclusivity, and empowerment for all workers, especially youth.

“No one should have to sacrifice their safety and well-being for a paycheck. It is our responsibility as a society to end workplace violence and harassment and to create a culture of respect, inclusivity, and empowerment.”

Esther Ebeh, Unlock Jobs Action Group Member, Nigeria

Join us…

Young leaders from the Jobs and Justice Action Group of the Unlock Engine Room have come together in the #ProtectYouthAtWork global campaign to call on their governments to ratify the convention. With youth calls in 17 countries and counting, the campaign aims to mobilize young people to strengthen national and sub-national youth platforms for decent work and workers’ rights.

We invite you and young people everywhere to play a pivotal role in this global campaign by advocating for the ratification of Convention C190 in your countries:

  • Share your message for your national leaders on social media or through a letter, using our toolkit with draft messages, visuals, and templates.
  • Share it with your friends and neighbors to spark localized discussion in your own communities about how to better protect young workers in your context.
  • Join us by signing up for the Unlock Engine Room, to connect with other young innovators working on joint action for the SDGs and designing our future.
  • No one should have to sacrifice their safety and wellbeing for a paycheck. The ILO Convention C190 offers an opportunity to create lasting change for young workers around the world, and we must work together to ensure its widespread adoption and implementation. 


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