Chemical industries

The chemical industry is of strategic importance to the sustainable development of national economies. The ILO estimates that there are up to 20 million people employed in the global chemical, pharmaceutical and rubber and tyre industries today.

Challenges in the sector

Global competition has rapidly changed the world map of chemical production and consumption. Greater competitiveness and uncertainty have triggered restructuring processes with significant implications for employment and earnings, composition of employment and working conditions in general.

The improper use of chemicals can have adverse consequences for humans and the environment. Although occupational safety and health prevention practices in the chemical sector have generally improved, there is concern about the risk gaps between large and small companies, and especially between regular workers and outsourced workers. Moreover, new occupational risks have emerged due to technological innovation.

The share of women employed in the chemical industry varies significantly and has only increased slowly. Higher educational levels among women relative to men are being reflected in greater shares of professional jobs and lower management, but less so in upper management positions.

Recent work

In 2013 the ILO held a Global Dialogue Forum on Initiatives to Promote Decent and Productive Work in the Chemical Industry, discussing innovative voluntary initiatives and social dialogue as effective tools to cope with existing and emerging challenges in the chemical industries.