Tripartism is economic corporatism based on tripartite contracts of business, labour, and state affiliations within the economy. Each is to act as a social partner to create economic policy through cooperation, consultation, negotiation, and compromise. Tripartism is a common form in neo-corporatism.
Tripartism became a popular form of economic policy during the economic crisis of the 1930s. Tripartism was supported from a number of different political perspectives at this time: one was Catholic social teaching; fascism supported this for fascist unions but repressed communist and social democratic unions; and in democratic politics. Tripartism is a prominent economic policy in Europe, particularly where Christian Democratic parties influenced by Catholic social teaching have held power; it is a core part of the economic systems in Scandinavia and the Benelux that were put in place by social democratic governments. An example is a national income policy agreement in Finland. Tripartite agreements are an important component in practical labour law, since they cover not only wages, but also issues such as policies on benefits, vacation, workhours and worker safety.
The International Labour Organization is the only United Nations agency that is based on tripartism. It uses the discussions between the three groups in drafting of standards and conventions. Also for the implementation of ILO-standards in national law tripartite consultations on a national level are a requirement for those countries party to the Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976.
Some countries have already used a tripartite structure to deal with social issues at the end of 19th century. And World War I made this type of approach far more urgent. In this new kind of conflict, military success was tightly bound up with the ability of nations to support increasing demands on their economies and to build ever more sophisticated weapons, which demanded concerted industrial efforts. Business and labour had to become involved in policy and cooperate to support the national effort.
During the war, Allied countries had made lots of promises to trade unions and employers so that they could make sure contribution of business to the war effort. Trade union and employers were invited to sit on governmental bodies in Great Britain, the United States and elsewhere. Moreover, unions were asked to forego acquired trade union rights for the sake of the war effort with promises that these rights would be restored after the conflict.
The first draft of the labour proposals for the peace conference had been prepared by British Government and became the basis for the discussions in the Labour Commission, and these proposals included the establishment of an international organization for labour legislation that would give a voting role to representatives of workers and employers.