Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilcock
Chapter 8: International financial institutions’ approaches to labour law: The case of the International Monetary Fund
This chapter examines the different facets of the IMF’s approach to labour law, which influences countries well beyond the ‘conditionality’ of the IMF’s financial assistance. It highlights the ambiguous nature of the IMF’s discourse on labour law according to which no contradiction exists between the IMF’s policy prescriptions and workers’ interests. The chapter illustrates that even though the IMF has occasionally supported minor improvements of labour standards, the dominant thrust of the IMF’s engagement with labour law has been on – often sweeping – deregulation. Furthermore, a number of inconsistencies between the IMF’s discourse and the related practice are discussed. Both the IMF’s approach in general and the said inconsistencies may, in part, be explained by the ideological bias of IMF staff towards deregulation, but also by other factors. The latter include internal IMF politics as well as external pressures, such as those exerted by social movements, which has sometimes led the IMF to depart from its standard policy prescriptions. It is precisely the IMF’s vulnerability to such external pressure that opens avenues for advocating for alternatives to the current IMF approach to labour law.
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