Mission & Offices

The Bureau of International Labor Affairs leads the U.S. Department of Labor's efforts to ensure that workers around the world are treated fairly and are able to share in the benefits of the global economy. ILAB's mission is to improve global working conditions, raise living standards, protect workers' ability to exercise their rights, and address the workplace exploitation of children and other vulnerable populations. Our efforts help to ensure a fair playing field for American workers and contribute to stronger export markets for goods made in the United States.

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The mission of OCFT is to promote the elimination of child labor and forced labor through policy, research, and technical assistance projects.

OCFT was created in 1993 in response to a request from Congress to investigate and report on child labor around the world. As domestic and international concern about child labor has grown, OCFT's activities have significantly expanded. Today, these activities include:

  • research and publication of major reports on international child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking;
  • funding and oversight of projects to eliminate exploitive child labor and forced labor around the world; and
  • assistance in the development and implementation of U.S. government policy on international child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking issues.

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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.

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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:

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

Learn more about our work

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.

View our research