Article 23:
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.


Article 23 establishes four principles: the right to work principle; the equal pay principle; the just remuneration principle; and freedom of association principle. The right to work principle includes several elements. The article establishes the right of every resident--not only citizens--to get access to the labor market. The right to work means that the individual should be able to choose employment without interference from authorities. Forced work, in all its forms, is rejected.

Access to the labor market is worthless, however, if the working conditions are not acceptable. Wages and the working environment must rise to a certain level before the right to work has any real meaning.

The same can be said about the free choice of employment in relation to protection against unemployment. Free choice cannot exist if the unemployed are left unprotected. The right to work can be regarded as a prerequisite for the protection against discrimination, the freedom of association, and other economic and social rights of the employees.

Adapted from Kent Kallstrom in Asbjorn Eide et al, Eds., The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A Commentary (1992) 357-358.