The mission of OCFT is to work to reduce child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking worldwide and to safeguard dignity at work by helping to ensure that other countries meet international labor standards. With a focus on the most vulnerable populations and communities, OCFT produces cutting-edge research and tools, funds targeted technical assistance, and strategically engages with foreign governments, businesses, worker organizations, and other key stakeholders to address these unacceptable labor abuses. OCFT combats the persistence of these exploitative practices in supply chains to ensure that workers in the United States and around the world can compete on a level playing field.
OCFT consists of the following divisions:
The Technical Assistance and Cooperation (TAC) unit currently manages an active portfolio of approximately 50 technical cooperation projects to combat child labor and forced labor around the world. These projects make a difference in the lives of children and their families, including through research, education and livelihood support, awareness raising, and by increasing the capacity of governments and other stakeholders to combat child and forced labor. ILAB works with governments, the private sector, and civil society organizations to strengthen laws, enforcement, policies, and social programs to support our goal of ending child labor and forced labor.
The Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning (MERL) Division works to improve the effectiveness of OCFT’s technical assistance program. The MERL Division facilitates the development of project monitoring and evaluation plans to track progress towards achieving intended results and oversees performance evaluations and project-level audits/attestation engagements. The Division’s research-related activities, conducted primarily through cooperative agreements, include: child labor prevalence surveys; formative research on the measurement of forced labor and human trafficking; and impact evaluations to assess the effectiveness of a variety of interventions in reducing child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking. The MERL Division publishes evaluation results and promotes the integration of learning from all of these work streams into OCFT’s programs and activities.
The Research and Policy (R&P) Unit produces important data on child labor, forced labor and human trafficking and makes it accessible to the U.S. government, foreign governments, NGOs, businesses, and other organizations working to tackle these serious violations of human rights. Researchers work throughout the year to collect relevant data from public sources, U.S. government agencies, foreign governments, NGOs, and their own field missions to countries. They then compile the data into specific and actionable information in the Unit’s three flagship reports. These are: Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor, and List of Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labor. The findings of these reports informs the selection of technical cooperation projects by the TAC unit, ensuring that OCFT’s technical assistance is focused on areas where our projects are most needed and can have the greatest impact.
Data from these three reports is available in the Sweat & Toil app. In addition, ILAB’s Comply Chain tool provides companies with steps for developing a robust social compliance system for monitoring labor practices in their supply chains. Finally, the R&P Unit oversees ILAB’s policy engagement on human trafficking, coordinating with the Department’s domestic agencies and other federal agencies to carry out its international-facing anti-trafficking mandate and convey the efforts of the Department to address this crime within the United States and around the world.
OIRER represents, coordinates, and facilitates U.S. Government participation in the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the labor components of international organizations; provides expertise, research and advice on labor and employment trends and issues in foreign countries; and helps facilitate the sharing of information between specialized DOL agencies and other countries.
OIRER has the lead role within the U.S. Government on policy and program issues related to the ILO. OIRER also carries out responsibilities on behalf of the U.S. Government at the:
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Employment, Labor and Social Affairs Committee
- United Nations
- Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor of the Organization of American States
- Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
- G20 labor ministers process
- United States-European Union Working Group on Employment and Labor-Related Issues under the New Transatlantic Agenda
All of these organizations conduct significant research and policy discussions on the important labor issues of the day.
Policies on Labor-Related Matters
OIRER conducts research on international labor issues and advises senior administration and officials on these and related policy matters in foreign countries. The office provides expertise and conducts research and analyses on labor issues in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East in support of the Administration's foreign policy priorities and also reports on foreign labor developments and global labor issues. It also manages the Department's International Visitors Program and assists in the training and support of State Department Foreign Service Officers.
OIRER's specialists stay abreast of labor, political, and economic developments in countries and regions of strategic importance to the United States and provide technical and policy advice to senior U.S. government officials in these areas. OIRER also conducts research in specialized areas to inform U.S. policy makers. They cover the following regions:
- East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands
- South and Central Asia
- Middle East
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- Western Hemisphere
OIRER also informs ILAB and DOL programs, policies, and reports. Much of OIRER’s efforts are deliberative for internal policymaking. To fulfill its mission, OIRER maintains programs of research in the following areas:
- The effects of international trade and economic policies and developments on earnings, employment, and working conditions of American workers;
- Cross-country comparative and macroeconomic analyses, with a focus on labor market developments and policies relevant to American workers; and,
- Improved methods to ensure compliance with, and enforcement of, workers’ rights internationally.
If you would like to learn more about OIRER’s work, please send an email to Contact-OIRER@dol.gov.
The mission of OTLA is to work to ensure that U.S. trade agreements are fair for American workers and workers around the world. We use all available tools – including negotiating strong labor provisions in our trade agreements and preference programs, monitoring for compliance, enforcing trade agreement and preference program commitments, and sharing technical expertise – to make sure that U.S. trade partners fulfill their promises and play by the rules, and that American workers are able to compete on a level playing field.
OTLA consists of the following divisions:
Trade Negotiations & Implementation (TNI)
TNI works to ensure that trade and investment is fair for American workers and for workers around the world. One of TNI’s primary responsibilities is to represent the Department of Labor in Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations on the labor chapter. The division develops country-specific requirements, such as annexes, negotiated to ensure compliance with labor obligations, and oversees the initial implementation of FTAs after signing. Similarly, TNI works with advanced economies where the US does not yet have a trade relationship to advance workers’ rights. TNI provides expertise to United States Government agencies in the policy-making, loan review, and implementation processes for the labor safeguards and other policies governing lending by the multilateral development banks and development finance institutions. TNI coordinates and is responsible for the Federal Advisory committee activities of the Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. It participates in all trade-related interagency issues and reviews trade mechanisms such as Section 201 and 301, and participates in the Special 301 review on intellectual property rights. TNI works closely with PPE at the intersection of labor, development and trade.
Preference Program Enforcement (PPE)
PPE focuses on the administration and enforcement of the worker rights criteria of United States trade preference programs. Through its role on the Trade Policy Staff Committee, PPE participates in the tri-annual assessment of country eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), all worker-rights related Country Practice Reviews under GSP, the annual African Growth and Opportunity Act review process, and the significant factory-specific monitoring and enforcement activities required by the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act. PPE monitors compliance in approximately 120 countries and dependent territories and spearheads OTLA’s engagement under the preference programs. PPE works closely with TNI at the intersection of labor, development, and trade.
Monitoring & Enforcement of Trade Agreements (META)
META aims to realize the full application of core international labor standards and compliance with labor provisions in U.S. free trade agreements (FTAs) in order to protect workers’ rights at home and abroad. META maintains an in-depth understanding of trade partner countries’ laws and practices related to labor issues and assesses their compliance with the labor obligations of FTAs. META uses this analysis to advocate for labor priorities in the U.S. trade and foreign policy agenda, make recommendations to partner governments to remedy weaknesses, and collaborate within the U.S. government to strengthen compliance in trade partner countries, including through the design of targeted technical assistance projects. META staff identify potential areas for enforcement action, including through the review of formal complaints, known as submissions, alleging a trade partner has violated the conditions required by the labor chapter of an FTA, and work with other U.S. government agencies to use all available tools under the agreement, including formal dispute settlement when appropriate, to enforce trade rules and hold every trade partner to their commitments. META is the designated contact point within OTLA for labor matters under each of the free trade agreements (other than USMCA).
United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement, Monitoring and Enforcement (USMCA ME)
USMCA ME monitors and enforces the labor provisions of the free trade agreement. USMCAME’s work involves (1) reviewing Mexico and Canada’s laws and practices related to labor issues; (2) assessing labor problems and possible trade violations, and (3) engaging to ensure that both countries fulfill their USMCA labor obligations. Specifically, USMCAME monitors Mexico’s compliance with the labor chapter Annex, responds to any potential violations arising through the Rapid Response mechanism, staffs the relevant committees established by the USMCA, and drafts multiple regular reports required by the agreement. USMCAME coordinates closely with the Mexico team in the TAC division and serves as the designated contact point within OTLA for labor matters under the agreement – handling any submissions filed under the labor chapter. USMCAME includes both headquarters-based staff and attaches posted across Mexico. The division works closely with META’s case-building team, as needed.
Technical Assistance & Cooperation (TAC)
TAC manages and funds targeted technical assistance projects that build the capacity of governments, workers, and employers to enforce and improve labor protections. The Division currently has over 25 active technical cooperation projects across the globe that provide technical assistance to improve worker rights, livelihoods and labor law compliance. Since 1995, we have developed programs in more than 72 countries that address a wide range of labor issues and help to make sure that trade partner countries have the tools to enforce their labor laws and comply with a trade agreement’s or preference program’s labor obligations.
Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E)
M&E is responsible for providing dedicated analytical support to OTLA’s technical assistance and policy programs. In addition to leading OTLA’s fulfillment of ILAB Learning Agenda items, this division assists in the collection and management of data and the performance measurements as well as in reporting on worker rights issues not related to child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking activities. The work of this division improves the overall accountability and oversight of organizational operations.
Operations provides administrative and operational support services to employees in OTLA and limited bureau-wide services.