• Resources

What are economic, social and cultural rights ?

Economic, social and cultural rights are those rights relating to the workplace, social security, family life, participation in cultural life, as well as access to housing, food, water, health care and education.

They are protected by various regional and international treaties as well as national constitutions. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is the most comprehensive treaty on the protection of these rights on an international level. At the African level, they are notably guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

They include:

Workers’ rights


including freedom from forced labour; the right to decide freely what kind of work to do and whether to accept a particular job; the right to fair wages and equal pay for equal work; the right to leisure time and reasonable limitation of working hours; the right to safe and healthy working conditions, and the right to join and form trade unions and to strike

The right to social protection

including the right not to be denied social security coverage arbitrarily or unreasonably; the right to equal enjoyment of adequate protection in the event of unemployment, sickness, old age or other lack of livelihood due to circumstances beyond one’s control

The right to protection of and assistance to the family

including the right to give free and full consent to marriage; the right to maternity and paternity protection and to the protection of children from economic and social exploitation

The right to an adequate standard of living

including the right to food and to be free from hunger; the right to adequate housing, water and clothing

The right to health

including the right to access to health facilities, goods and services; the right to healthy occupational and environmental conditions; the right to protection against epidemic diseases, as well as rights relating to sexual and reproductive health

The right to education

including the right to free and compulsory primary education and to available and accessible secondary and higher education which is progressively made free of charge; and the liberty of parents to choose schools for their children

Cultural rights

including the right to participate in cultural life and to share in and benefit from scientific advancement; and the protection of authors’ moral and material interests from scientific, literary or artistic production

Useful links: