Social dialogue is a term used to define the nature of discussions that take place between representative employer organisations, worker organisations and governments, particularly as they relate to labour and social policy debates both within the ILO and at national level. This tripartite model has guided the working methods and governance of the ILO since its inception.
The strength of social dialogue rests in the representativity of the organisations of workers and employers to engage with government and each other on behalf of a legitimate constituency, i.e. their members. Nowadays, some question that "exclusivity". Other actors in society also seek to have their voice heard. Employers do not object to others contributing to national debates, but many such voices do not have the representative legitimacy of the traditional actors, and who these voices speak for is not often very clear. Such inclusion should not be at the expense of social dialogue.
Social dialogue allows for consensus-building, giving governments real social actors to engage with that have the legitimacy to take decisions.
In recent years, the need for such consensus-building in the face of economic and social change has increased. This has led to the establishment of more regular and deeper conversation between the IOE and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and the sectoral Global Union Federations (GUFs), with the parties seeing the need to look to work on areas of common interest for the betterment of business, as well as for the creation and retention of jobs and the protection of workers.