First, the increasing decentralization of IR (resulting from the need for enterprises to become more flexible, productive and competitive in the face of globalization) implies that governments must devolve more power and responsibility to managers and workers at industry and enterprise level to enable them to resolve issues of direct concern at the workplace. It will also place much greater demands on the people involved in individual enterprises, and reinforce the requirement for strong and effective workers’ and employers’ organizations which have the capacity to respond to members’ needs.
Secondly, not only will the roles of the “actors” in the IR system be subject to closer scrutiny in the future, so will their underlying values. Equity and stability in IR can only be delivered by the parties themselves. In particular, there will need to be a re-affirmation of freedom of association, the rights of workers, and pluralism. This will require increased attention in some countries to promote the role and legitimacy of trade unions and other workers’ representatives. Other issues, such as eliminating forced and child labour, and reducing (and, eventually, eliminating) discrimination in the workplace, will also have to be given much higher priority. In this context, the role of international labour standards in guiding the parties towards appropriate policies and strategies will continue to be significant.
Thirdly, it will be necessary for IR legislation and supporting rules and institutions to be reviewed, on a continuing basis. The labour legislation in many countries in the region reflects a now outdated approach based on minimisation of industrial conflict. Greater priority should be given to how legislation can be used to establish a framework for managers, workers and trade unions to pursue improved productivity and flexibility on a participative basis, while still providing appropriate protections for workers and a share in the benefits of growth, and emphasing prevention of industrial disputes through greater workplace cooperation. Dispute settlement machinery (including processes and administration) also needs to be made more effective in a number of countries.