Investing in skills development, anticipating labour market changes and promoting social dialogue: these are considered crucial conditions in a just transition towards a green and sustainable economy. These elements were highlighted as crucial for the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, during a Green Jobs Conference jointly organized by the Government of Flanders, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Social and Economic Council of Flanders (SERV). This Conference marks the increasing partnership between the ILO, the Government of Flanders and the SERV. In March 2011 a new cooperation agreement was signed, placing a strong focus on the promotion of labour standards and sustainable development, as well as social dialogue. Kris Peeters, minister-president of the Government of Flanders, stressed the importance of this partnership during his opening speech to the conference.
ILO and Flanders, a growing cooperation
The Government of Flanders and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have a long-standing cooperation that has developed into a full-fledged partnership over the years. Flanders has become a substantial donor financing technical cooperation projects in the Flemish partner countries, in emerging economies and in countries located just outside the borders of the European Union. In March 2011, minister-president Kris Peeters signed a new cooperation agreement with the ILO. With this new agreement, a strong focus was placed on promoting labour standards and sustainable development, as well as the promotion of social dialogue. This refocusing of thematic priorities allows for support to the ILO’s work in the field of green economy, for instance by financing a green jobs project in Brazil.
In line with this intensifying partnership, the Government of Flanders, the ILO and the Social and Economic Council of Flanders (SERV) organized a joint conference on green jobs today in the Flemish parliament. At the start of the conference, Kris Peeters stressed the importance of this partnership. “Cooperating with specialized multilateral agencies - such as the ILO - gives us the opportunity to address the current challenges we are confronted with and make a difference in other regions in the world. With today’s conference we want to strengthen this partnership with the ILO, while continuously making our social partners, government administrations, NGO’s, journalists and the civil society sensitive for sustainable development and a green economy and the concrete actions that it requires.”
Rudi Delarue, Director of the ILO-Brussels office, welcomed the growing cooperation between the ILO and Flanders on promoting decent work for all. “Making the transition towards a green and sustainable economy fair and inclusive is a substantial part of these joint ILO-Flanders efforts”, he stated.
Pieter Kerremans, rapporteur for the SERV at the conference, confirmed the readiness of the Flemish social partners to extend their cooperation with the ILO, with a focus on green jobs. “We firmly believe that political will, social dialogue and broad societal consensus are key factors for a successful transition to green jobs and green economies”, he concluded.
Crucial elements highlighted by Flanders for Rio+20
Green jobs for social progress
At the conference, green economy experts, social partners, public agents and stakeholders debated the challenge of the transition towards a greener economy in Flanders, in Europe and in the world. The participants agreed that a green economy should not only aim at lowering carbon use and improving resource efficiency, but also at promoting inclusion of all people and social progress.
Green economy creates jobs
The green economy model based on social, economic and environmental pillars is applicable in developed as in developing countries. Analyses of policies aimed at promoting investment in greening the economy have demonstrated that net employment gains ranging from 0.5 to 2 per cent are possible, when the right policies are put in place.
Greening the economy in developing countries
Developing countries can leapfrog progress through green investments as the heritage of a brown economy is much less burdensome. The transition to greener economies has the potential to lift millions of workers in developing countries, particularly women, out of poverty and to include them in the formal economy, especially in agriculture, forestry and waste recycling – provided these jobs are safe and decent.
The conference panellists defined challenges linked to greening the economy, both in Flanders and globally. One of the major issues discussed was that education and vocational systems need to adjust their offer to the change in the demand for skills and competencies for green enterprises and jobs. An early identification of skills needs is critical to avoid skill shortages and minimize the transition cost.
Measures for steering a socially acceptable transition are necessary. Active labour market policies provide a tested set of instruments to address a just transition: investments into new skills along with unemployment benefits, labour market intermediation and economic diversification for workers relocated from resource-intensive industries. In Flanders, the Public Employment Service (VDAB), outsourced specific trainings and geared these towards ‘disadvantaged groups’ and shortage professions.
The key role of sustainable enterprises should be emphasized, in particular green small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) as they are core drivers of the green transformation. SMEs are the main employer and biggest source of job creation and innovation. An enabling environment for enterprise development is needed.
Workers should enjoy decent working conditions and protection, also in the green economy. This can be achieved through the compliance with international labour standards, including those dealing with the right to a safe and healthy working environment. This is relevant in the context of risks emerging from new technologies and occupations in the green economy. Nationally-defined social protection floors are powerful tools to combat poverty and promote social inclusion. They can enable fair and inclusive transitions by facilitating adaptation to climate change and empowering workers to seize new economic opportunities. Social protection floors can also serve as an automatic stabilizer during the economic crises and structural transitions and are a fundamental component of inclusive and fair development strategies.
The ILO-Brussels Office, email@example.com, +32(0)2.736.59.42, Barbara Janssens, Communication assistant: +32 (0) 484 91 55 59.
The Flemish Department of Foreign Affairs: Julie Bynens, Representative of the Flemish Government to the multilateral organisations in Geneva, Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org, +32 (0) 2 553 53 78
Social and Economic Council of Flanders, Leen Muys, email@example.com, +32 (0) 479 424 423.