Historical Development of Labour Law

By Manisha Das


The origination of labour law could be traced back to the distant past and to the most diverse parts of the World. The Asian scholars who have recognised labour law standards as far back as the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (18th century BCE) the regulations and rules for labour-management relations in the Hindu Laws of Manu (Manu-smriti, c. 100 CE). The Latin American authors point to the Laws of the Indies communicated by Spain during the 17th century for its New World territories. Labour law in the current sense essentially results in successive industrial revolutions from the 18th century onward. This was necessary when the intimacy or customary restraints of employment relationships in small-scale communities discontinued to give sufficient protection against the incidental exploitation to new forms of manufacture and also mining on a swiftly increasing-scale at specifically during the time while the 18th Century Enlightenment (French Revolution) the political forces that were being set by them in motion created the elements of the contemporary social conscience. This got developed at a leisurely sedate pace, primarily in most of the industrialized western countries of Europe, during the 19th century and had attained its current value, relative maturity, and got accepted worldwide during the period of 20th century only. Adoption of the Labour Legislation

British Health and Morals of Apprentices act of 1802 was the first landmark of the Contemporary labour law, sponsored by the elder Sir Robert Peel. The same legislation for the protection of the young labours was established in Zurich during 1815 and also in France during 1841. By 1848 the very first legal limitation of the working hours for adult labours was taken up by the citizen’s assembly of Landsgemeinde of the swiss canton of Glarus. Health insurance and worker’s compensation were initiated by Germany from 1883 to 1884, and obligatory arbitration in industrial disputes was inaugurated in New Zealand during the 1890s. The advancement was slow until after the World War I of labour legislation outside Western Europe, New Zealand and Australia. The most industrialized states of the U.S.A launch into pass this sort of legislation with regard to the end of the 19th century, but the volume of the current labour legislation of the United States was not accepted until after Great Depression during the 1930s. There wasn’t practically any labour legislation in Russia before the October Revolution of 1917. Indian children between the ages of 7 to 12 were restricted to nine hours of work each day during 1881 and the male adults in the textile mills to 10 hours per day during 1911, first major advancement was the amendment of the Factory Act in 1922 that gave effect to conventions accumulated during the first session of the International Labour Conference at Washington D.C. during 1919. Japan rudimentary regulations were introduced in 1890 on the work of mines, but a factory act which was proposed was controversial for about 30 years prior to its enforcement during 1911, and the revision of this act in 1923 in order to provide effects to the Washington Convention on hours of work in the industry was a decisive step taken. While labour legislation in Latin America was enacted in Argentina during the early years of the century and sustained a powerful momentum from the Mexican Revolution, which was terminated by 1917, although in North America, there this trend had been generally only with the influence of the Great Depression. From the 1940s onwards the progress of labour legislation in Africa became significant.

Recognition of the Law

The legal identification of the rights of association for the trade union motives has a typical history. There isn’t any different aspect of labour law in which successive expressions of advancement and retrogradation have been more decisively affected by the political substitutes and considerations. The legal restriction of these associations was nullified in the U.K during 1824 and also in France during 1884, there’s been many consequential changes in the Labour law and may as well have more changes, Although these have been connected to matters of specific aspects more than related to fundamental principles. In the U.S Freedom of Association for the Trade Union reasons remained perilous and subject to the scope of unpredictable labour injunction, through which the courts helped prevent trade union activity until 1930s. The development for trade unionism and also collective bargaining was attained by the National Labour Relations Act[1]of 1935. In numerous countries, the evidence of advancement and atavism concerning freedom of association falls into clearly eminent periods segregated by the political changes that are decisive. This was exactly been the matter with Italy, Germany, Japan, Spain, and so many other Eastern European countries. Until the 20th-century labour codes or different forms of far-reaching labour legislation weren’t introduced. The first labour code was forecasted in 1901 in France and publicized in stages from the year 1910 to 1927. Encompassed by the more advanced formulations that affect the common condition of labour was the Mexican Constitution of 1917 and also Weimar Constitution of 1919, Germany both provided constitutional status to some common principles of the social policy relating to economic rights. These types of provisions have become increasingly common and now these are widespread in most parts of the world.

Ministries or departments of Labour Law is accountable for the operative administration of labour legislation, also for the promotion of its future development that was established during 1900 in Canada, and during 1906 in France, during 1913 in the U.S.A, during 1961 in the U.K, and during 1918 in Germany. These became common in Europe, were enforced in Japan and India in the following years and was general in Latin America in the 1930s.


There were various legislations addressing and serving the numerous labour law concerns and issues. All these Acts were enacted to throw into light the economic and social issues faced by the working class. Labour Laws are really very dynamic in their nature, therefore new laws must be formulated to adapt to the different environments and urge to evolve continuously. There has been numerous future prospects and projects being formulated by India is collaborating with ILO.

[1] National labour Relations Act (1935)

Author: Manisha Das

Year: 2year, student

College: Amity Law School, Kolkata

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