NEW ZEALAND (ILO News) – Challenges posed by youth unemployment and underemployment, gender inequality, the informal economy and HIV/AIDS as a workplace discrimination issue were in the spotlight in Auckland this week, as representatives of governments, employers’ and workers’ groups in South-East Asia and the Pacific gathered for an International Labour Organization (ILO) forum on decent work.
Decent work is a development concept that aims to bring about a balance between the social and economic dimensions of development by integrating four strategic objectives - rights at work, employment creation and enterprise development, social protection and social dialogue. Decent work applies to both the formal and informal economies.
"The improvement of working conditions in relatively smaller enterprises, and occurrences of work-related accidents and diseases, are of concern in most, if not all the countries in the region. Socio-economic insecurity, caused by economic trends, including changes due to globalization and new technologies, is quite evident in small economies in South-East Asia and the Pacific," said Yasuyuki Nodera, ILO’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
Participating in the three-day event were reprentatives from governments, employers’ and workers’ groups from Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, Kiribati, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu.
Two months ago in Auckland, the heads of the Pacific island states adopted a Communiqué at the Thirty-Fourth Pacific Islands Forum. HIV/AIDS and disability were acknowledged as priority development issues requiring immediate attention.
"We understand the consequences of these issues in the workplace need to be addressed properly so as to ensure the economic well being of workers, and so that they are able to retain their human dignity," Nodera said.
The ILO welcomed and congratulated Vanuatu and Timor-Leste on their accession to the Organization in May 2003 and August 2003, respectively. "We look forward to working closely with you in promoting decent and productive work for women and men in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity," he added.
"We also look forward to the prospect of other Pacific island states joining the ILO by the end of the decade. These countries have been actively embracing ways of raising their voices in international forums in a more collective way so that their common issues and concerns can be recognized and properly addressed."
An ILO report presented at the forum underlined the magnitude of the employment challenge. ‘Decent Work in South-East Asia and the Pacific’ says, "changing industry structures and shifting patterns of employment also result from global competition. These pressures are being felt in terms of displaced workers, labour migration and increasing unemployment".
"Many past policy prescriptions did not view job creation or its enhancement as an explicit objective of economic and social policies, but, rather, a result of macroeconomic policies. Consequently, inequitable development has occurred and that now needs to be redressed", the report goes on to say.
The ILO believes that the best strategy to address these problems lies in the development of appropriate policies and programmes aimed at promoting decent work. The forum allowed for meaningful dialogue that should lead to stronger cooperation, delegates said.
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