Remarks to the Meeting of the Labour Ministers of the Asia-Pacific Group, 93rd International Labour Conference

by Mr Shinichi Hasegawa, Regional Director of ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Statement | Geneva | 07 June 2005

Honourable Ministers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and pleasure to be here today. Let me begin by expressing my appreciation for your continued cooperation and support to the ILO offices in the Region.

I would like to take up three issues today. First, the ILO’s response to the Tsunami. Second, the forthcoming 14th Asian Regional Meeting. Third, our activities on today’s topic, skills.

To respond effectively to the devastation caused by last December’s tsunami, the ILO established task forces at the Regional Office and Headquarters to support the work of our Offices in the affected countries - , , and . Since the first critical days following the disaster, the ILO has been working very hard on the ground to plan for early recovery and rehabilitation, whilst at the same time addressing the most immediate reconstruction needs. Our efforts have focused on re-establishing jobs, employment and economic activity.

More than 4 million people lost their livelihood and are at risk of sinking deeper into poverty. One good example of our response is the Emergency Public Employment and Livelihood Services Network in .

In the first four weeks of the service, more than 9,000 job-seekers registered for job placements with the Employment Service and the number has been growing. Emergency employment services are also being extended to other areas. The ILO’s employment-intensive investment programmes are very much in demand, as are our vocational training activities.

We will continue our activities for the livelihoods of affected people and the reconstruction of the affected areas.

Second, the 14th Asian Regional Meeting in Busan in October this year. We have just sent out the invitation letters to you. Copies of the letter, together with the provisional programme are also available on the table. The meeting will focus on the themes taken up in the report of the Director-General for the Meeting. The first volume of the report reviews ILO activities in the region since the 13th ARM in 2001. The second volume calls for Making Decent Work an Asian Goal. Since 2001, in response to the conclusions of the last ARM, the ILO has been assisting countries to begin at home to address globalization through national plans of action for decent work. We are very pleased to report that a number of Asian countries have incorporated decent work into their national development and social agendas.

The Asian region as a whole has been leading in the global economy, but employment and labour conditions remain major challenges. For the 14th ARM, we hope to discuss and share experiences on how Asian countries individually and together through regional cooperation and integration can handle these challenges to achieve decent work in a rapidly globalizing world. We look to your guidance on how the ILO can most effectively play a role in the region.

Two special sessions are planned. One is a Heads of State and Government Panel to discuss “How can productive employment keep Competitive”. The other is a Special Session for Labour Ministers on “Decent Work through Developing Workers’ Skills in the era of globalization”. Regional priorities requiring operational guidance will be discussed in four parallel sessions on

  • Competitiveness, productivity and jobs;
  • Governance for making decent work an Asian goal;
  • Youth employment; and
  • Labour migration - towards a regional framework.

Allow me to say that we are very grateful for the generous spirit and hard work that the Government of the has shown in offering to host the 14th ARM. To draw your attention to the events that will take place in Busan, we have agreed to the Government of Korea distributing for the purposes of this meeting only a draft brochure. This brochure is still under development and the ILO and the Government of Korea intend to revise and further develop it together. A final version, with full and up-to-date information will be provided to you in the near future for your use and free circulation. We are very pleased with our cooperation and look forward to the most successful ARM possible.

Your theme today on “Skills” is very timely. needs a priority agenda for action on skills issues. This forum is a first step towards that, showing both partnership and political commitment.

The ILO has worked with countries to meet skills challenges. I would like to introduce some of them.

In , the ILO is supporting the development of an integrated action plan to tackle the possible loss of over 150,000 jobs, after the termination of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement. Retraining and job placement are important components of this plan.

In , the ILO’s Training for Rural Economic Empowerment module – known as TREE - has become a key element in the Prime Minister’s employment agenda, which aims to reduce poverty by training 300,000 people within the next year.

In , the ILO’s Start and Improve Your Business – or SIYB - programmes have promoted employment opportunities for laid-off state sector workers in 14 cities. A Distance Learning and Training network for the poor and marginalized has been launched for poverty reduction.

In , more than 826 SIYB workshops have been conducted and more than 6,000 new businesses and 25,000 new jobs have been created.

Cooperation between the ILO and UNESCO is helping to bring together the labour and education ministries in many countries. Coordination between these two ministries helps to ensure that education and training are coherently part of a strategy for ensuring the appropriate skills needed for the labour market and for enhancing the employability of young school leavers looking for jobs.

Within the Office itself, we have launched several initiatives to provide better services to member States.

First, a Strategic Framework for Skills Development in and the Pacific has been developed to assist countries on the skills dimensions of Decent Work Country Programmes through a coordinated work plan of all units working on skills issues. It is still work in progress. The conclusions of the 14th ARM can help shape the priorities of the Strategic Framework.

Second, we commissioned a survey in 2004 to assess the perceptions of APSDEP member States on the strengths, weaknesses, and performance of APSDEP in the past five years. The findings helped in the design of the Strategic Framework and the revitalization of APSDEP. I wish to thank the Government of Japan for continuing supporting to APSDEP.

Third, the ILO has launched a new project, supported by the Government of Korea, to strengthen networking among skills institutions in the region for capacity building and knowledge sharing. Employers’ and workers’ organizations and research institutions will also be part of this network.

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you just some of the many activities going on in the Asia Pacific Region. We will have the opportunity for much wider and deeper discussion at the Asian Regional Meeting and I certainly look forward very much to seeing all of you again in Busan in October.