Employment & Social Protection

  • Weavers at work

    Strong job growth and social protection are essential to achieving inclusive, sustainable, and broad-based economic growth. By creating quality jobs with access to social protection and basic worker rights, a country can reduce inequality and improve the overall standard of living of its people. This inclusive economic growth supports greater consumption and investment, contributing to a virtuous cycle of sustained economic growth.

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Our Role

Through its multilateral and bilateral engagements, ILAB:

  • Promotes a greater understanding of the key role that quality employment and social protection  play in inclusive economic growth;
  • Advances efforts aimed at fostering employment creation and developing and implementing effective social protection programs;
  • Promotes respect for the fundamental rights of all workers;
  • Works with other governments to exchange best practices on key employment and labor issues;
  • Conducts research and disseminates findings on effective labor and employment policies.

Rising youth unemployment is a growing problem the world over. Globally, youth face numerous employment-related challenges, including poverty, under-employment, unemployment, a lack of relevant education and skills, and a lack of decent job opportunities. Without action, the future outlook for youth is bleak and could have negative impacts on society as a whole, such as a potentially smaller productive labor force, a higher dependence of youth and their families on social services, increased crime, political instability, and youth suffering from long-lasting psychological effects.

Our Strategy

ILAB is committed to playing an active role in addressing youth unemployment. We advocate for international action and commitments from developed and developing countries to address youth unemployment and fund technical assistance projects to promote youth skills training and employment opportunities.

In international dialogues in the G20, the ILO, and other multilateral fora, ILAB promotes the use of effective labor policies and programs, such as work-based and vocational training. ILAB also shares best practices with other governments to enhance effective action to provide youth employment opportunities and to address youth unemployment both at home and abroad.

ILAB also funds technical assistance projects that provide youth with education and vocational training and access to other resources they need to secure decent work and serve as future leaders.


  • Provide youth with education, training, and marketable skills.
  • Increase resources allocated to youth employment and training programs.
  • Facilitate school-to-work transition.
  • Increase job opportunities for youth.

Social protection can reduce the negative effects of economic crises on individuals and help workers stay connected to the job market. All people should have access to basic social protection floors, yet the ILO estimates that over 76 per cent of the world's population lacks adequate social protection coverage and more than half lacks any coverage at all. Although there is no universal definition of social protection, in the labor sector, the term often refers to worker protections such as occupational safety and health regulations, unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, and job skills training.

Our Strategy

ILAB seeks to promote access to effective social protection through advocacy in international organizations such as the International Labor Organization, G20 Labor and Employment Ministers' process, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Organization of American States, the United Nations, and Multilateral Development Banks.  We seek to advance social protection policies and programs and their contributions to inclusive economic growth.  We also provide expert advice in U.S. government inter-agency discussions on the relationship between social protection, labor, and development. 

Our work to eliminate exploitative child labor around the world includes efforts to strengthen social protection systems to provide access to assistance for families-in-need, so that their children do not need to engage in exploitative work.


  • Foster inclusive economic growth globally by promoting strong social protection systems. 
  • Support country efforts to eliminate child labor through improved social protection systems.
  • Encourage support for and implementation of well-designed social protection programs. 

Labor migration is a key component of growing and increasingly complex international migration. In addition to the large numbers of migrants who migrate specifically for employment purposes, many of those who migrate for other reasons nonetheless enter the labor market. Labor migration has implications for workers, communities and labor markets in sending and receiving countries, though the precise implications may be less clear, and may vary from place to place, and under varying conditions.

Our Strategy

ILAB promotes protection of the rights of all migrant workers, and provides expertise on labor and employment issues for U.S. government participation in a wide range of global and regional dialogues on migration. We represent the U.S. government in discussions of labor migration in the International Labor Organization, the leading international agency on labor migration. We also participate on U.S. government delegations to multilateral fora such as the UN High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, the Global Forum on International Migration and Development, and the Regional Conference on Migration.

To help workers understand and exercise their rights and address potential workplace exploitation of vulnerable populations in the U.S., ILAB facilitates the establishment of partnerships between foreign embassies and consulates in the United States and the Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Wage and Hour Division.

We also fund technical assistance projects to strengthen the capacity of countries to promote education and livelihood alternatives of migrant children and their families.


  • Promote respect for fundamental rights at work of all migrant workers, regardless of their immigration status;
  • Advocate effective enforcement of labor laws for all workers, and decrease their vulnerability to labor exploitation and human trafficking;
  • Promote U.S. Government priorities related to labor migration; and
  • Share best practices for the protection of migrant workers.

Persons with disabilities may be particularly vulnerable to exploitation and poverty. According to the United Nations, approximately 15 percent of the global population has a disability. Individuals with disabilities face obstacles to employment and education and have higher rates of unemployment, often two or more times the rates of their counterparts without disabilities.

Child laborers can acquire disabilities performing hazardous work. Children with disabilities and those who have caregivers with disabilities are often sent to work and not school.  Those who do attend school are more likely than their peers without disabilities to leave prior to completion, diminishing their outlook for good jobs and wages in the future

Our Strategy

ILAB engages in policy discussions and exchanges with other countries bilaterally, multilaterally, and through technical cooperation to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. Our bureau takes part in bilateral dialogues, technical exchanges, and discussions in multilateral fora, such as APEC and the ILO, to share best practices in promoting the employment of persons with disabilities.

We fund projects which provide people affected by disabilities with education and vocational training, and access to livelihood opportunities. ILAB's technical assistance also supports governments in the development of relevant policies, laws, and social and educational programs.

In sharing expertise, designing technical assistance, and developing positions on issues related to disability internationally, ILAB draws on the expertise and good practices developed by the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy.


  • Strengthen the capacity of countries to promote the labor rights and livelihoods of persons with disabilities.
  • Support governments and civil society in identifying and removing barriers to the employment of persons with disabilities.
  • Improve the capacity of countries to protect children with disabilities from child labor and improve the livelihoods of their families.
  • Protect children and families affected by disabilities from exploitative labor and give them the skills and resources they need to secure good jobs.  

While the U.S. economy continues to recover from the Great Recession of 2007-2009, serious labor market problems remain: increased long-term unemployment, low employment rates for disadvantaged groups, growing skills mismatch, and increased income inequality.

Many other industrialized countries face similar labor market challenges. By documenting and sharing their experiences in designing policies and implementing programs to address these same problems, ILAB assists the Department of Labor in meeting two of its strategic objectives: (1) advancing employment opportunities for U.S. workers and (2) providing marketable skills and knowledge to increase workers' income and help them overcome barriers to the middle class.

Our Strategy

Through its participation in numerous international organizations, ILAB collects information on international best practices with regard to effective labor market policies. The emphasis is on identifying those international employment and training programs that work, those that do not, and the reasons for their success or failure.  Some of the topics that we investigate include:

  • Skills Training:  Examine successful country models, assess training strategies developed by international organizations, compare the level and distribution of skills of the American worker to workers in other countries and determine how these skills are acquired and used, review career guidance programs, and examine skills certification systems.
  • Long-term Unemployment:  Review efforts by a number of other industrialized countries that have sought to reduce long-term unemployment over recent decades including short-term measures to support labor demand and labor market policies including job search assistance and training to assist permanently displaced workers to find employment.
  • Disadvantaged Workers:  Research the range of policies that have been introduced to assist those groups hit hardest by the Great Recession -- youth, the low-skilled, and immigrants.  These include education and training programs, transition from school-to-work, and reducing labor demand barriers.
  • Job Quality:  Examine efforts to promote the creation of good paying jobs through minimum wages, strong collective bargaining systems, integration of local economic development and skill training efforts, the development of career pathways, incentives to employers to introduce a high-skill, high-productivity workplace, and addressing the growing gaps between standard and nonstandard employment.    


  • Focus the research agendas of key international organizations on labor market issues of highest DOL priority.
  • Inform DOL policymaking by reviewing international efforts to address key labor market challenges and arranging seminars to discuss these efforts.