G20 Osaka Leaders’ Summit

No social justice without decent work

In a speech at the G20 leaders’ summit in Tokyo, ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, pointed to the need to tackle inequality amongst the world’s workers.

Statement | 29 June 2019
ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) at the G20 Osaka Summit in Osaka
© Brendan Smialowski / AFP
Clearly, current efforts have not delivered convergent rising incomes among the world’s workforce commensurate with the objective of balanced and sustainable growth.

ILO evidence points to significant distributive failures:
  • Wealth is increasingly concentrated;
  • The gap between richest and poorest is widening within countries;
  • Labour’s share of income has fallen in developed countries and remains well below the global average in developing countries;
  • Gender inequalities persist;
  • Inter-generational inequalities are accumulating;
  • And a large portion of the world’s workforce is experiencing real wage stagnation.
So what can we do?

Above all, achieve decent work for all. Decent work is a powerful distributive force that delivers both greater equity and social justice. We need to pay attention to labour markets, because while they are the primary source of income opportunities around the world, left unregulated they often instigate and exacerbate inequalities.

Just two examples. First, the risk of unemployment is higher for women and low income workers. Secondly, low-wage jobs are more often correlated with irregular hours, hazardous work and lack of social protection.

This is why appropriate regulation is so important in providing decent work.

In addition universal social protection systems play an enormous role in countering inequality. Europe’s relatively low income inequality is in large part the result of active efforts by governments to reduce income disparities through taxes and transfers. Before taxes and transfers, labour market inequality in Europe is quite similar to other regions, for example Latin America. But taxes and transfers make an enormous difference to inequality in Europe yet relatively little in Latin America.

Therefore to counter income inequality, we need to invest in the institutions that achieve redistribution, through sound industrial relations systems and tax and transfer systems that support sustainable social protection systems.

And finally, current economic and labour market structures are not conducive to gender equality. We need targeted actions on multiple fronts to close the gender gaps in labour force participation and pay. This starts with rebalancing the distribution of unpaid care work between men and women, because gender equality truly does begin at home. And we need to continue to fight discrimination and eliminate stereotypes.

Last week delegates to the ILO’s Centenary International Labour Conference adopted a Convention to address violence and harassment in the world of work, a ground-breaking instrument that provides another important tool in the fight for women’s equal status. I conclude by urging G20 countries to lead the way in ratifying and implementing this new Convention.

I thank you.