There are 500 days to go until we reach the 2015 MDG deadline, where do we stand on achieving the targets on poverty and employment?
Aurelio Parisotto: The goal of reducing extreme poverty rates by half under MDG 1 was reached in 2010, five years ahead of deadline. By 2011 the number of workers living on US$ 1.25 a day had reduced by 294 million compared to 2001. Progress was especially strong in developing countries in East and South-East Asia and Latin America.
However, much work remains to be done. 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty around the world, while 2.4 billion live on less than US$ 2 a day. Moving toward poverty eradication remains a top priority for the UN. This requires efforts to achieve stable, inclusive and job-rich economic growth.
Recognition that work and income is the principle route out of poverty led to the inclusion of a target under MDG1 on achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all.
The financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession have hampered progress in this area and today over 200 million people remain unemployed worldwide, 75 million of whom are young people.
Looking ahead, some 670 million new jobs will be needed in the fifteen years from 2015 to 2030, just to keep up with the growth of the world’s working age population. But in order to make a difference in the lives of working women and men, we have to make sure that these jobs are decent and productive.
How has the ILO responded to the challenges presented by the global financial crisis?
Aurelio Parisotto: Poverty and hunger will not be eradicated without creating decent and productive jobs in substantial numbers and put simply that’s what the ILO advocates for.
ILO knowledge derived from project experience on the ground and research and analysis in areas essential to poverty reduction have helped inform policy decisions at national levels both before and since the crisis.
At the peak of the global financial crisis, the governments and employer and worker organizations of the ILO’s member states agreed on a framework of action to promote a jobs rich crisis recovery. The 2009 Global Jobs Pact provides a range of tested crisis-response and recovery measures that focus on employment and social protection.
Countries that implemented Jobs Pact like policies have fared better in recovering from the crisis. Nations in Latin America and Asia for example first addressed the structural factors underlying poverty and underemployment. They focused on making economic growth more inclusive by combining policies to foster investment and enterprise creation with measures to extend social protection and strengthen labour markets.
Other important elements of success included stable and sound government institutions committed to the rule of law, human rights, property rights and a suitable environment for starting and growing businesses. Labour market policies and institutions such as minimum wages and employment protection legislation also played a role.
Right now, as part of our contribution to accelerating progress on the MDGs, we are assisting countries in their efforts to improve job opportunities by means of investment in employment-intensive infrastructural activities, training and skills formation, enterprise creation and cooperatives, access to micro-financing and business development services.
We are also helping strengthen social security systems and develop national social protection floors. Our work is grounded in international labour instruments and social dialogue, and aims to reinforce national capacities up to and beyond 2015.
What other MDGs has the ILO been working to help achieve?
Aurelio Parisotto: The ILO’s work cuts across the development issues prioritized by the 8 MDGs.
MDG 3 on promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women for example, is another goal that has been impacted by the financial crisis. Higher relative unemployment rates for women, along with wage inequality, overrepresentation in the informal economy and inadequate social protection have all hampered progress.
In 2010 the ILO agreed an Action Plan for Gender Equality, which runs until 2015, and is designed to ensure all ILO initiatives and recommendations address the specific needs of both women and men, and that women and men participate in – and benefit equally from – development efforts.
On MDG6 on combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases the ILO has promoted the workplace as a vital entry point for limiting the spread and effects of HIV/AIDS. In 2010 the ILO International Labour Conference adopted the first internationally sanctioned legal instrument aimed at strengthening the contribution of the world of work to universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
The ILO contributes to MDG7 on environmental sustainability through our Green Jobs Initiative which promotes the greening of enterprises, workplace practices and the labour market as a whole. These efforts help create decent employment opportunities, enhance resource efficiency and build low-carbon sustainable societies.
What happens after 2015, what is the ILO’s vision for the future development agenda?
Aurelio Parisotto: As the UN Secretary-General highlights in his report on Accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals the MDG experience shows that global shocks, financial, environmental or otherwise, may wipe away development gains. As we look beyond 2015, the agenda must complete the unfinished business of the MDGs but also address the structural underpinnings behind poverty, inequality and sustainability.
We must raise the level of ambition and move from the need to provide basic social services to the poor in developing countries to the promotion of a global development agenda to make economic and social progress sustainable and beneficial to all.
The ILO believes that creation of decent and productive jobs is the sustainable route to prosperity for individuals and families; it is the way economies grow and when supported with effective social protection systems, protects countries against the impact of external shocks. In short it is the one of the most pressing development priorities of our time.
Respondents to a recent Gallup world poll in 160 countries agreed and ranked access to better job opportunities as their number one priority overall.
It is an ambitious goal but investment in decent job creation can pay dividends. The ILO’s 2014 World of Work report showed that living standards improved more in those emerging and developing economies that invested the most in quality jobs from the early 2000s.
The pursuit of jobs with respect for the environment is also vital in the context of the Post-2015 era. Preparing the workforce with relevant skills for greener industries and extending social protection would be needed to smooth the transition to a more environmentally sustainable development model.
As the global community moves forward with shaping the Post-2015 Development Agenda, strengthened international policy coordination and cooperation will be vital. And while the UN system is taking the lead, broad engagement and the readiness of all partners – private sector, trade unions and civil society - are crucial to assuring the successful implementation of the new goals.