The World Bank’s World Development Report 2013: Jobs – Interview with Peter Bakvis

The ILO welcomed the World Bank's World Development Report 2013: Jobs; a timely publication in the midst of the economic crisis. On this occasion, Peter Bakvis, Director of the Washington Office of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) gave his views about this report …

Press release | Geneva, Switzerland | 02 November 2012

ACTRAV INFO: The World Bank’s 2013 World Development Report on Jobs underlines that the treatment of freedom of association and the role of workers and employers in national social dialogue is undeveloped. From the ITUC perspective, what do you think about this fact?

Peter Bakvis: Specifically for freedom of association issues, I think for a World Bank Report, and I have read many of them; it is definitely the most complete and the most detailed justification of the importance of core labour standards, and I think it is very positive for the Bank. Now how that will translate on a country level, and how the World Bank actually takes that lesson is another question. But I think expressing as firmly as they did, in one place stating that “a job that does not guarantee respect for ILO core labour standards, is not a job”; I think this is positive.

ACTRAV INFO: One message from this report is that growth is important, but growth alone is not enough for job creation. According to you, what should be the role of ILO core labour standards in this issue of job creation?

The ILO core labour standards of course in the Decent Work Agenda – the core labour standards are an essential part of it, and I think one interesting aspect – referring to the World Development Report – is that they propose to re-examine our development strategies through what they call a “job lens”. One aspect, which is a little bit problematic, and I do have to raise is that they talk about an objective of what they call “creating good jobs for development”. They especially want to focus on unemployment that has spill-over, multiplier effects in other sectors. And they say in some cases, in some contexts, that can include informal economy employment. Now I would point that out as a fundamental contradiction and I did in my response [at the meeting] this morning. If on the one hand they say a job without core labour standards is not really a job, and then they say well some informal economy employment can be good jobs for development, well then they are contradicting themselves.

I think the ILO has to be very firm in its on-going discussions and cooperation with the World Bank on implementing the positive aspects of this report to really ask the World Bank to make a firm commitment to Decent Work and all its aspects which includes the core labour standards, and which includes comprehensive social protection, because neither of these are assured in the informal economy.

ACTRAV INFO: Finally, how do you see the cooperation between the ILO and the World Bank or the IMF in the future?

In general, I think there is more open-ness on the part of both institutions, and I think that the publication that we have just had – the World Development Report – is a demonstration of that; there are lots of good intentions, lots of good analysis. Now we just have to remember that this is not a policy document, it is a research, a policy research and it only engages the authors, who were only six or seven people, and the Bank can do what it wants.

We have the same situation at the IMF. The IMF in some cases produces some good papers – by no means all of the papers it produces! But it has said very good things about the importance of a more equal distribution as an important element for sustainable growth, and stable growth, so I think those are all positive elements. And I think the IMF should use those openings to push for concrete action on the ground. So cooperation cannot just be on a research agenda, or on analysis where we agree on a certain number of principles. Ultimately, for the trade union movement, what is important is what this translates in for the workers we represent. So I would like to see the cooperation go much further, on a country-by-country level.

And I think the ILO should have some very firm principles that it should make both institutions aware of. And if there is an agreement in principle by the institutions that yes they agree with the core labour standards, or they agree with the social protection floor – which to some degree on a rhetorical level both have supported, that they push the institutions to actually live up to the commitments at the country level. Because currently the situation we have is that some countries are actually doing the opposite. People are well aware of some of the programmes in Europe where they are deregulating the labour market and the IMF is taking the lead in some of these cases, and in some other countries institutions are actually being resistant to the full expansion of social protection because governments cannot afford it. Those institutions should be helping the governments to actually identify sources of domestic financing, which in most cases in fact do exist, if there was the political will: to tax the rich, to tax extractive industries, to tax profitable corporations. So I think the ILO should be more insistent on seeing some concrete results on the ground in their cooperation, not just be satisfied with developing some overall research.