Labour rights in the context of structural adjustment and financial consolidation policies: report

27 December 2016
Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on human rights
To the HRC at its 34th session


The Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on human rights, Mr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, presented a thematic report on the impact of structural adjustment and fiscal consolidation policies on labour rights contained in international human rights law to the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.


In many countries, austerity-related labour law reforms have been promoted by international financial institutions on the assumption that they will lead to economic growth and thus prevent or help overcome debt crises.

Many countries have adopted fiscal consolidation measures in response to financial crises, such as reducing the public sector wage bill or the number of people employed in the public sector, and labour market reforms to render the labour market more flexible and thereby increase the competitiveness of their economies. These measures include the modification of labour laws, freezing or reducing the minimum wage, extending working hours, and weakening the collective bargaining system through decentralization. Sometimes such measures have have contravened states’ international obligations, erode labour rights, or resulted in retrogression of work-related gender equality.

The report analyses the relationship between labour rights and sovereign debt, focusing on labour market reforms and austerity measures implemented in the context of sovereign debt crises. The report explores the ways in which austerity measures and labour market reform have modified, both in law and in practice, collective and individual labour rights at the domestic level.

The report concludes with proposals for improving protection of individual and collective labour rights during sovereign debt crises and times of austerity.

Inputs received

In the context of preparing his report, the Independent Expert invited contributions and views from States, national human rights institutions and civil society by 30 September 2016.

Questionnaire for Governments and National Human Rights Institutions: English | Français | Español

Questionnaire for international financial institutions: English | Français

Questionnaire for civil society organisations and trade unions: English | Français

Substantive responses received from Governments, national human rights institutions, and non-governmental organisations



Civil society organisations

Other responses

  • Denmark - Danish Human Rights Institute
  • European Investment Bank
  • Lithuania Seimas Ombudsmen's Office