wHat are Economic and Social Rights?

…and why do they matter?

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Economic and social rights (ESR) are the rights of everyday life, for everyday people.

ESR are recognised in international human rights law as the essential social and economic conditions needed to live a life of dignity and freedom. They include the right to work and workers’ rights, social security, health, education, food, water, housing, and the right to a healthy environment.

Human rights are recognised in international treaties that the UK was instrumental in bringing to life. One of these treaties is the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The ICESCR is an international human rights treaty that was ratified by the UK in 1976. ICESCR establishes that we are all entitled to certain human rights: right to social security, right to food and housing as part of an adequate standard of living, labour rights, the right to health, education and participation in cultural life. These rights have equal status in international law with civil and political rights, such as freedom of expression or the right to a fair trial.

States that have ratified the ICESCR have a legal obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the rights contained therein.

Find out more

To find out more, you can download and read our briefing: ‘What are economic & social rights and how are they recognised in international law?’