GENEVA (ILO News) – Warning of a possible six to eight year employment and social protection crisis due to the economic downturn, International Labour Organization (ILO) Director- General Juan Somavia today called on delegates to the 98th International Labour Conference to adopt a “Global Jobs Pact.”
Mr. Somavia cited a range of dire economic challenges facing the world of work, ranging from rising unemployment and increasing poverty to stress on businesses, adding, “all of this put together means that the world may be looking at a jobs and social protection crisis of six to eight years duration.”
He also said the global economy will need to create around 300 million new jobs up to 2015 just to keep up with the increase in the labour force, adding “but things are going in the opposite direction” and “unemployment is projected to continue rising at least until the end of 2010, maybe 2011.”
Noting that there are signs that the economic downturn may be losing speed, he said “we know from past crises that employment recovers pre-crisis levels with a lag of between four and five years on average.”
“Our tripartite responsibility is to propose policies that significantly reduce the lag in employment recovery”, Mr. Somavia told the plenary. He said a global Pact would imply a commitment by the ILO tripartite constituency to make employment and social protection a central element of all economic and social policies; and promote a productive vision led by investment and enterprises, social protection and job creation.
“Much will depend on the success of overall economic and social policies and stimulus packages adopted by countries and a functioning financial sector,” he said. “Our immediate task is to fashion a strong tripartite agreement on a recovery through Decent Work policies.”
“The Pact is not an international legal obligation,” he said. “It is an agreement on common policy approaches, eventually leading to national and international programmes.”
Mr. Somavia said the proposed Global Jobs Pact is based on a series of tried and tested policies which, if adopted in a comprehensive fashion, could “reduce social tensions, protect people in the downturn and, most importantly, stimulate aggregate demand and prepare the growth of tomorrow”.
“So I call on you, on the tripartite International Labour Conference – the highest governance instance of the ILO – to shape and fashion your Global Jobs Pact as a national, regional and global initiative to help workers, families and enterprises weather the first systemic crisis of the global economy and build the foundations of a decent work path to recovery and sustainable growth,” Mr. Somavia said.
More than 10 Heads of State and government, six vice presidents, Ministers of labour, workers and employers and other economic and labour leaders are to participate in an ILO Jobs Summit on 15-16 June at this year’s ILO meeting. Nearly 4,000 delegates from the Organization’s 183 Member States are expected to attend the 16 day Conference in Geneva.
The Conference opened amid what Mr. Somavia referred to as “a change of era”. He recalled that “the costs of the crisis are widely distributed. The benefits of earlier growth were highly concentrated.”
“Putting people first − not just saying it but doing it − has to be the priority,” Mr. Somavia said.