The discussion, convened under the theme “Restoring Confidence: Jobs, Growth and Social Progress”, brought together Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Africa; Professor Yves Flueckiger, Vice-Rector, University of Geneva; Daniel Funes de Rioja, Executive Vice-President of the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
In opening remarks, ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, pointed to what he said was the question most frequently asked over the course of the ILC, which takes place in Geneva between 5 and 20 June.
“It’s the simple question of where are the jobs coming from? The concern is not only about generating jobs in sufficient numbers but also their quality.”
The first panellist to take the floor was Lopes, who presented a positive picture of African economic growth but said that lack of youth employment opportunities, inequality and the challenges of a large informal economy need to be addressed.
What’s needed, he said, was structural transformation but that needs to be in the hands of Africans themselves.
“We believe that to successfully create the conditions for jobs, growth and social progress, the continent needs to have its own control of its own vision and narrative. We need a structural transformation of African economies to ensure jobs, growth and social progress.”
Flueckiger called for “fairness and balance” in tackling budgets, coordinating more harmonious fiscal systems, while ensuring the future of jobs. There needs to be fair access to education, the jobs market and social protection, he said.
“We need to ensure that there is a balance between the necessary social protection of workers and the flexibility which is essential to make sure that there are jobs for young people. There needs to be a balance between the need to have decent salaries but making sure that salaries are not so high that workers are priced out of the jobs’ market.”
Speaking on behalf of the employers’ group, Funes de Rioja stressed the importance of the private sector to economic recovery.
“The return to growth lies in the private sector. There is no substitute for this.”
He said that tripartism is essential to growth, and pointed to job creation, particularly for young people. However, he called for the removal of what he called obstacles to growth, such as rigidity in employment regulations.”
“There is no longer a ‘job for life’. This is what we need to face. Rigidity does not protect the workers. The more we understand this reality, the more successful we will be.”
On her part, Burrow said that there is a need for radical solutions to the problems facing economies and the world of work. She said that the austerity policies followed by many governments in response to the economic crisis had failed.
“We say to the employers, of course you don’t want to price workers out of the labour markets, but if you don’t pay workers a wage which you can live on, your businesses are at risk.”
Burrow stressed that there needs to be targeted investment in jobs and infrastructure. For businesses to be sustainable, she added, social protection floors, minimum wages, labour rights are essential.
All panellists agreed that the ILO has an essential role to play in the recovery and that it should be centre stage in international efforts to find solutions.
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