Labour Inspection in a Global Context

10 October 2024 - 9:00 — 11 October 2024 - 17:00

The Conference "Labour Inspection in a Global Context: Balancing the Interests of Employers and Employees" will focus on the history, presence and future of these two groups, and will be held on 10 and 11 October 2024 at the International Institute for Social History.


Labour inspectorates ensure that employers comply with labour laws and regulations that protect the rights and safety of workers. However, they also face challenges and opposition from employers and employees because of the divergent interests between these two groups. For example, employers may see labour inspections as a source of excessive regulation that interfere with their economic interests. Unions and labour movements, in turn, may view labour inspections as inadequate and ineffective in enforcing labour standards and ensuring the protection of workers’ rights in terms of working hours and safety.

Call for Papers

The conference will explore how labour inspectorates have fulfilled their role as mediators between workers and employers, and how this role has evolved over time in response to changing political, economic, and social contexts. It also raises the question of how labour inspectorates compete with or are at least challenged by alternative forms of labour protection, such as self-regulating industry standards.

The deadline for the call for papers is 15 January 2024.

We welcome papers that engage with the following sub-themes and sub-questions:

  1. How did labour inspection emerge as a key element of labour protection and labour policy implementation in different countries and regions?
  2. What were the main challenges and achievements of labour inspectors in promoting decent work, especially among vulnerable or hard-to-reach groups and in the informal economy?
  3. How have workers and their organizations participated in the work of labour inspectorates? What impact have these participatory approaches had on the effectiveness of inspectorates in promoting workers’ rights and safety?
  4. How did female inspectors enter the labour inspection profession and what role did they play in addressing gender issues and discrimination in the workplace?
  5. What strategies did labour inspectorates adopt to cope with the variety of sectors and their specific features of workers and employers, while maintaining consistency and harmony of legislation and enforcement?
  6. How have labour inspectorates responded to the rise of neoliberal economic policies and the erosion of labour protections? What strategies have inspectorates employed to maintain their role as protectors of worker rights and safety?
  7. How did inspectorates adapt to the changing world of work with its new employment patterns, such as temporary agency work and digital platform work?
  8. How have inspectorates adapted to the challenges of globalization? How have they responded to migration and the increasing use of subcontracting, outsourcing, and informal labour arrangements that often fall outside of their jurisdiction?

We welcome submissions from historians, sociologists, political scientists, legal scholars, and other researchers who engage with the history of labour inspectorates. We encourage interdisciplinary and comparative perspectives, and we also welcome papers that draw on comparative or cross-national perspectives.

Further information can be found on the Social History Portal website.

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