ILAB's mission is to promote a fair global playing field for workers in the United States and around the world by enforcing trade commitments, strengthening labor standards, and combating international child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking.

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 app provides companies with steps for developing a robust social compliance system for monitoring labor practices in their supply chains. The R&P Unit also oversees ILAB’s policy engagement on human trafficking, coordinating with the Department’s domestic agencies and other federal departments to carry out national anti-trafficking mandates and convey the efforts of the Department to address this crime within the United States and around the world.

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 Policy & Negotiations (TPN)

TPN works to ensure that U.S. multilateral and bilateral trade and investment policy is fair for U.S. workers. For example, TPN staff:  play an important role in the negotiation of the worker protection provisions of U.S. free trade agreements, as well as in the administration and enforcement of labor commitments in U.S. trade preference programs; help to formulate U.S. policy in the area of import relief for imports that injure or threaten to injure U.S. industries and their workers; participate in U.S. government deliberations concerning the elimination of certain unfair trade practices and provide input into other trade policy areas (such as trade remedies and national security investigations) that may have an impact on U.S. workers; and negotiate the guidelines governing lending by multilateral development banks and international financial institutions.

Monitoring & Enforcement of Trade Agreements (META)

META monitors and enforces the labor provisions of U.S. free trade agreements to make sure that countries abide by their commitments and that all workers can compete on a level playing field.  META’s work involves:  reviewing trade partner countries’ laws and practices related to labor issues; assessing labor problems and possible trade violations; engaging at high levels to ensure that all countries play by the rules; and working with other developed economies to ensure that they do their part to make sure that our trade partners play by the rules.  META staff also review complaints, known as submissions, alleging that a trade partner has violated the conditions required by the labor chapter of a free trade agreement, 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.

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.

More information

OIR represents, coordinates, and facilitates U.S. Government participation in theInternational 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.

International Organizations

OIR has the lead role within the U.S. Government on policy and program issues related to the ILO. OIR 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

OIR 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.

Regional Specialists

OIR'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. OIR also conducts research in specialized areas to inform U.S. policy makers. They cover the following regions:

  • East Asia and the Pacific

    Chris Watson
    (202) 693-4858 

    Katherine Cook
    (202) 693-4838 

  • Europe and Eurasia


  • Near East


  • South and Central Asia


  • Sub-Saharan Africa


  • Western Hemisphere


For other inquiries, please call OIR's main phone line: (202) 693-4855 or email

The mission of the Office of Economic and Labor Research (OELR) is to ensure that research informs ILAB and DOL programs, policies, and reports.  To fulfill its mission, OELR 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.

Much of OELR's research is deliberative for internal policymaking.