At the United Nations Ministerial Conference which took place 7-8 December 2009 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, participants from 13 countries1 reviewed the social impact of the crisis and exchanged their experience and ideas in developing effective anti-crisis policies and long-term recovery strategies. The crisis has hit this region particularly hard, undermining growth and threatening to more than roll back some of the pickup in living standards registered in the past decade after the tough years of the 1990s. The Millennium Development Goals are unlikely to be attained by the 2015 target unless the region reaches double digit levels of per-capita growth from 2011-2015.
During the conference, representatives of ministries of labour, finance, economy and agriculture, representatives of the UN system, international and regional financial institutions (IFIs)2 and of the regions trade unions and employers’ organizations assessed how the ILO Jobs Pact can support governments and social partners in addressing the heavy social impact of the crisis. “Solutions to the crisis have to be pro-poor, job-rich, gender sensitive and green”, said one participant from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
Many governments in the region have launched policy packages to address the recession and improve the labour market situation but, as Petra Ulshoefer, ILO’s Regional Director for Europe noted, "it is important to stimulate an inclusive job-rich growth and build a macroeconomic framework conducive to high levels of investment, sustainable enterprises and productive employment". In this respect, the ILO’s Global Jobs Pact, relevant for all countries, can usefully guide Governments and social partners in these actions.
Anti-crisis measures in the field of employment vary among countries, depending on the severity of the crisis, the public and private funds available to governments and differences in their capacity to design and implement employment protection measures. “The two most favoured methods of intervention are investment in infrastructure, in combination with public works, and support for enterprises, through improved access to credit and tax breaks”, said Alena Nesporova of the ILO.
Countries in the region, already facing a hard transition to the market economy, are confronted with increases in food prices, which might affect them more than the global crisis. Agricultural “productivity safety nets,” a constant provision of seeds and fertilizers and the FAO Initiative on Soaring Food Prices (ISFP) to help small producers raise their outputs have proven to be effective measures shared by participants.
In Kazakhstan, 2009 was a particularly difficult year for workers in the oil- and gas-producing industries. Additional funds equal to 15 per cent of the country’s GDP were released by the Government to help small and medium size enterprises cope with the crisis, through additional training and retraining of the unemployed, and targeted social assistance programmes.
The Conference produced the Almaty Ministerial Declaration 2009, with which ministers and heads of delegations responsible for employment, labour market and social policies, committed to “building employment, social protection and food security policies that will ensure that every working woman and man has the opportunity to participate in the economy and contribute to an economic and labour market recovery with equity.”
For more information about proposed crisis solutions, please visit the Almaty UN Ministerial Conference webpage.
For more information on the ILO Global Jobs Pact, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan
2 International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)