ILO Director-General expresses support for reform and change in Egypt

Mr. Juan Somavia, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), concluding an official visit to Egypt, expressed ILO support for the establishment of freedom of association and other labour market and economic reforms in the country.

Press release | 14 March 2011

CAIRO (ILO News) – Mr. Juan Somavia, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), concluding an official visit to Egypt, expressed ILO support for the establishment of freedom of association and other labour market and economic reforms in the country.

At the joint invitation of the Minister of Finance, Mr. Samir Radwan, and the Minister of Manpower and Migration, Mr. Ahmed El Borai, the Director-General of the ILO, Mr. Juan Somavia carried out an official visit to Egypt from 11 to 13 March 2011. He also met with the Prime Minister, Mr. Essam Sharaf and senior government officials, as well as representatives of the independent trade unions, youth leaders of the revolution and civil society actors.

“The “people’s revolution”, which broke out in Egypt on 25 January, has brought freedom and the path back to full democracy. It has generated hopes for a new beginning” Mr. Somavia declared.

He paid tribute to the courage and sacrifices of the young women and men who gave birth to this era of change and underlined the participation of women in the Tahrir square demonstrations, adding that they should “continue to play an important role in this process of change and democratization.” He saluted the conviction and determination of the independent trade unions and pledged immediate support for their capacity building.

Freedom of association in Egypt was a key theme throughout the Director-General’s mission. The Director-General witnessed and welcomed the Declaration by Minister El Borai which guarantees that all trade unions will be registered and can freely pursue their legitimate activities. Mr. Somavia pledged support for strengthening the basis for genuine social dialogue and free collective bargaining.

“The fact that the Ministers of finance and labour are inviting the ILO to work together indicates the important policy convergence of the issues on which they are requesting our contribution: freedom of association, wages, social protection and employment, especially for youth” he said. “The ILO is encouraged by the enthusiasm and constructive spirit that reigns in the country”.

The ILO Director-General expressed his conviction that if Egypt is to grow on a more equitable, sustained and balanced basis, the macro-economic policies will also have to target jobs creation on a priority basis.

He expressed his support for the immediate actions envisaged by the Egyptian Government to tackle the employment challenges, such as employment-intensive investment programmes, an enhanced development of SMEs and large-scale development projects.

He also pledged the ILO’s availability to accompany the Government’s efforts in their political will to establish an effective minimum wage policy, as well as for the establishment of a sustainable unemployment insurance scheme, including by bringing experiences from other countries.

The Director-General, Mr. Somavia invited the Minister of Manpower and Migration Mr. El Borai to participate in the ministerial meeting of the ILO Governing Body on 21 March 2011 to inform the ILO tripartite membership on the new situation in the labour field. On that occasion, the Minister will be accompanied by senior officials of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Manpower and Migration in order to make an immediate follow-up with ILO technical counterparts on the issues discussed during the Director-General's visit.