On the International Labour Organization and prison labour: An invitation to recalibrate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article re-examines the ILO's normative outlook on prison labour, arguing that it is out of touch with the realities on the ground, where public/private hybrid forms of prison labour are proliferating. The authors bring to light the controversy surrounding the position taken by the ILO, as member States repeatedly demand that it relax, and increasingly defy, its dichotomous stance. They illustrate the heavy price to be paid if the ILO stays on its current course, but also if it adopts the position favoured by some of these member States. Instead, they point to two alternatives that go beyond these conflicting positions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-524
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Labour Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was made available thanks to the generous support of the Israel Science Fund (Grant No. 1712/18). The authors would like to thank Saar Ben‐Zeev and Ittai Regev for their excellent research assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© The authors 2020 Journal compilation © International Labour Organization 2020


  • ILO standards
  • forced labour
  • prison labour
  • privatization
  • public/private divide
  • role of ILO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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