Human rights and the post-2015 agenda: The role of decent work

Introductory remarks delivered by ILO's Director-General to the Human Rights Council at the High level Panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming held in Geneva, on 1 March 2013.

Statement | Geneva | 01 March 2013
Mr Secretary-General, Madame High-Commissioner, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen,

The target date set for the unfinished task of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, is almost upon us.

So what does the world look like as we move toward 2015? Over 200 million people around the world will be unemployed this year – and this is expected to rise by another 3 million in 2014. This means that some 30 million more people are unemployed since the crisis struck, while 40 million have lost hope and left the job market. As for young people, many have never had any hope to lose, with almost 74 million young people unemployed globally.

It is perhaps no coincidence that the first thematic consultation on the post-2015 agenda, organized by ILO and UNDP, and hosted by the Government of Japan, dealt with employment.

What will the world look like post-2015? Let me recall then when in 2009 the ILO constituents adopted a Global Jobs Pact with a view to guiding recovery from the crisis, it stated that “The world must do better”, and “the world should look different after the crisis”. These aspirations should also be at the heart of the post-2015 process.

Let us bear in mind that the world labour force is currently increasing by over 40 million per year. The rate of growth is gradually declining but to keep up with the growth of the world’s labour force some 425 million new jobs will be needed over the 15 year period from 2016 to 2030. If there are higher participation rates, especially for women, the figure will be higher still.

However it is not just a matter of jobs. In developing countries employment generally increases in line with population growth because women and men simply cannot afford not to work even if the job only provides a subsistence income. Therefore around 900 million women and men are working but not able to lift themselves and their families above the $2 a day poverty line. Altogether this means we need to create around 1.5 billion good jobs in order to lift people over the poverty line by 2030.

So we have to address head on the most pressing global development priority: job creation. And not the creation of just any jobs - we need decent jobs. Jobs undertaken with child labour, forced labour, in the absence of the right to organize and bargain collectively, or without the right to non-discrimination, are not decent jobs. There is a growing consensus that the way forward is employment-led recovery, underpinned by respect for human rights, including labour rights, supported by a social protection floor, and participative processes through social dialogue.

The previous speakers have raised a key issue which is closely linked to decent work: the right to education. I won’t reiterate that point, but just register my agreement. Education must be a lifelong process, and intimately linked to the labour market. We face the paradox that despite unemployment reaching record levels, posts remain unfulfilled due to lack of skills.

Mr. Chairman, full and productive employment and decent work should be a central goal of the post-2015 development agenda. The goal should come with agreed parameters to help national stakeholders define targets, within the overall framework of equality, sustainability and human rights. This goal needs to be supported through the establishment of social protection floors for poverty reduction and resilience.

Another lesson from the MDG process is that progress towards inclusive, equitable and sustainable development requires a process of regular dialogue and negotiation. People all over the world are demanding a voice and demanding a job, and it is up to us to respond actively and effectively to their demands.