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Public International Law (ARCHIVE): Comparative & Global Labour Law

This guide will help you find resources for researching public international law.


National Legislation & Legal Commentary

The ILO's NATLEX database contains national labour, social security and related human rights legislation from 196 countries. The database can be searched, or browsed by country or subject.

The ILO knowledge portal contains individual country information and data on labour laws, standards, policies and statistics. Country profiles also contain information on ILO projects and programmes, publications and good practices.

The Kluwer Law Online International Encyclopaedia of Laws (IEL) Labour Law (UniMelb staff & student access) contains over 75 individual country monographs, which include useful introductory / background information, and detailed chapters on individual employment relationships and collective labour relations. It also contains international and regional monographs on eg: EU Labour Law, labour law in the OECD.

  • NOTE: while the Kluwer chapters are a good starting point for your research, some of the country monographs are several years old, so the law may have changed - so be aware that you may need to check legislation on official government legislation websites to ensure currency.

For more resources for finding legislation from individual countries, see the ILO Library's Research Guide on Labour Law (National).

Finding National Labour Law Cases

The following database is a useful way to find labour law cases from multiple countries in one place:

The International Labour Law Reports (UniMelb staff and student access) do not include national cases that consider international labour law conventions - they include significant decisions from superior courts in many national jurisdictions that consider domestic employment / labour law. The ILLR is published annual by BRILL from vol1 1, 1974 to current.

Note that coverage is selective, only including highly significant cases. To find all domestic cases on  your labour law topic in a particular country, you will need to use caselaw databases from the specific jurisdiction.

Doing business in...practical employment law country comparison tools

The following practical comparative tools / guides are aimed at those doing business in foreign jurisdictions. They do not include every country. The databases provide brief but useful information about the employment laws of the jurisdictions covered. 

INTERNATIONAL COMPARATIVE LEGAL GUIDES > Employment & Labour Law (open access)

This tool covers about 60 countries. It can be used to look at the legal situation in one country or compare two or more jurisdictions on specific employment topics.

  • To look at one jurisdiction only, click the Free Online Access button - this will take you to the Jurisdiction Chapters for all jurisdictions. Then select the jurisdiction.
  • Click on the Compare Jurisdictions button to use the Comparison tool. Then select two or more jurisdictions, and then select the specific questions you want to compare.

Lexology PRO (formerly GETTING THE DEAL THROUGH) > Topics > People > Labour and Employment (UniMelb staff & students)

This tool covers about 60 countries. It can be used to look at the legal situation in one country or compare two or more jurisdictions on specific employment topics.

  • To search for specific employment laws in a single country
  • To compare specific employment topics in two or more countries

The open access version of Thomson Reuters EMPLOYMENT AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS GLOBAL GUIDE covers about 35 countries. It provides practical overviews on topical cross-border employment and employee benefits issues, and country-specific Q&As on employment law and practice, such as information on contractual and implied terms of employment, minimum wages, discrimination and harassment, consequences of business transfers, and taxation.

Comparative Employment Protection Legislation

The ILO Employment protection legislation database - EPLex - provides information on all the key topics that are regularly examined in national and comparative studies on employment termination legislation. The database can be browsed by country or theme, and there is also an advanced search feature.

The ILO Working Conditions Laws database provides a picture of the regulatory environment of working time, minimum wages and maternity protection in more than 100 countries around the world. It contains comprehensive legal information, which allows you to conduct customized research on a specific country, to compare the legislation of several countries or regions on a particular subject or to perform searches by text. For selected issues, a historical comparison is possible.

The OECD Indicators of Employment Protection Legislation (open access) measure the procedures and costs involved in dismissing individuals or groups of workers and the procedures involved in hiring workers on fixed-term or temporary work agency contracts in OECD Member countries. Useful comparison tools are provided.

See a critique of the OCED database in Martin Myant and Laura Brandhuber, 'Uses and Abuses of the OECD's Employment Protection Legislation Index in Research and EU Policy Making' (7 December 2016) ETUI Research Paper - Working Paper 2016.11. Full text article available on SSRN (open access).

The OECD iLibrary Employment Protection Legislation database (UniMelb staff & student access) includes data on strictness of employment protection legislation for overall, regular and temporary employment in OECD Member countries.

Comparative Labour Rights

The following tools are useful for comparing two or more jurisdictions on various workers' rights topics. As well as ILO Conventions, workers' rights are enshrined in several human rights treaties - to see more on comparing human rights in relation to employment / labour, see the Comparative / Global Human Rights tab on the Human Rights Law Research Guide.

US Department of State Human Rights Reports 

  • These annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  include internationally recognised worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements. The Department of State submits reports on all countries receiving assistance and all United Nations member states.
  • You can see reports by region, country and human rights topic. A really useful feature is 'Build a Report', which allows you to select one or more human rights topics, then add regions or countries and then build a report to compare those areas. To access this feature:

1) select an annual report from the left hand menu on the Human Rights Reports page.

2) click on the Build a Report tab on the top menu to see issues across countries.

3) select one or more topics from Section 7: Worker Rights

4) select two or more countries to compare.

5) select Step 3: Build Report and Create my Report.




The Rule of Law Index from the World Justice Project

The latest Rule of Law Index from the World Justice Project provides rankings for 102 countries based on their adherence to protection of fundamental human rights.  See each country's statistics and ranking here. See the full Rule of Law Index report for all countries here.

The factors taken into account in assessing protection of fundamental rights rank are those established under the Universal Declaration, and include:

  • Factor 4.7 - freedom of assembly and association; and

  • Factor 4-8 - fundamental labor rights, including the right to collective bargaining, the prohibition of forced and child labor, and the elimination of discrimination.  

To see individual country reports as measured against the Factors, hover over the map to select the country. To see more detail, click on View Full Profile.

Comparative Employment Statistics

The OECD Employment Database (open access) provides up-to-date statistics to make comparisons between countries and identifying trends over time in OECD Member countries. The database includes information on employment, unemployment, earnings and wages, labour market policies and institutions, skills and work, and job quality.  

The OECD Employment and Labour Market Statistics databases (UniMelb staff & student access) provide statistics on labour markets, labour forces, trade unions, job quality, hours worked, average wages, and unemployment in OECD Member countries. See also the Unemployment database and the Employment database, which provides statistics on employment by education level, age, activity, hours worked etc.

The OECD’s Labour Force Statistics (UniMelb staff & student access) is an annual publication that provides detailed statistics on population, labour force, employment and unemployment, broken down by sex, as well as unemployment duration, employment status, employment by sector of activity and part-time employment. It also contains participation and unemployment rates by sex and detailed age groups as well as comparative tables for the main components of the labour force. Data are available for each OECD member country and for OECD-Total, Euro area and European Union. The time series presented in the publication cover 10 years for most countries. 

The Country Profiles on the ILO ILOSTAT database contain detailed employment statistics for every country. The ILOSTAT database can also be browsed by country or subject.

he ILOSTAT interactive Map (open access) can be used to compare employment rates and statistics of two or more countries.

Comparative Labour Law Journals

International Journal of Comparative Labour Law & Industrial Relations vol 1, 1985 to current available as an e-journal

Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal - vol 1(1976) to current available as an e-journal (UniMelb staff & student access)

  • previously entitled Comparative Labor Law Journal (vols 8-18; 1986-1997) and Comparative Labor Law (vol 1-7; 1976-1986)

Open Access Articles & Book Chapters on SSRN

Finkin, Matthew, 'Comparative Labour Law' in Mathias Reimann & Reinhard Zimmermann (eds) Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law (OUP, 2nd ed, 2019) 

Daugareilh, Isabelle, Christophe Degryse and Philippe Pochet, 'The Platform Economy and Social Law: Key Issues in Comparative Perspective' (ETUI Research Paper - Working Paper No 10, 2019) 

De Stefano, Valerio, 'Introduction: Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Labour Protection' (2019) 41(1) Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal