Helped by the growing opening of markets and advances in transport and communication ser-vices, an export-based economy has been endorsed in many countries for some decades now. To this end, one of the tools used is named as ‘Export Processing Zones’, a special arrangement, where generous incentives of fiscal and administrative nature are offered to those investing in export oriented products or/and services. From its inception in the early 1960s, the alluring ob-jectives it promises to achieve and indeed some practical gains it has delivered in areas as job creation explains its fast growth, predominantly in developing countries.
Nonetheless, criticisms against the scheme are also rife. Not only is EPZs’ economic feasibility questioned, but also under scrutiny is the quality of labour that it offers. Regarding the latter, it is alleged that many aspects of labour conditions in these zones are inferior in comparison to similar local firms and that countries are using such lax application of labour protection laws to stay competitive in attracting international investors. This triggers a question as to what actions are being taken in response to these concerns. As the International Labour Organization, a UN agency with a leading role in the global protection of labour, is arguably at the top of its kind to look to for some action and guidance, the thesis seeks to inquire what the Organization has been up to in this regard. It is within this context that it sets to review some working conditions in EPZs, examine the mandate of the ILO in this regard, and track and assess recent developments of action from the Organization concerning working conditions in EPZs, with a focus on Freedom of Association.