Representatives of the IMF, the ILO, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and national unions from Austria, Bulgaria, Ireland, Latvia, and Romania met in Vienna, to review the international response to the job crisis, considered insufficient and uneven. The “Dialogue on Growth and Employment in Europe” heard labour practitioners and policy makers concerned with finding solutions to global unemployment and developing sustainable models of growth.
Participants agreed that the recovery, especially in advanced economies, has fallen short of tackling the job crisis. Policy makers must do more to ensure that employment-creating strategies are integrated in long-term macroeconomic policies for growth. “The issue [unemployment] needs to be kept in front of the G-20, and the IMF will do that”, said Mark Allen, head of the IMF Regional Office for Eastern and Central Europe.
Labour leaders in Vienna assessed the employment situation in Europe and looked at what G20 economies pledged to achieve through the Mutual Assessment Process and its new approach of collective policy action.
The Vienna symposium comes six months after a ground-breaking conference in Oslo—hosted by the Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg and co-sponsored by the IMF and ILO—which brought together leaders from government, labour, business, and academia to discuss near-term policy responses necessary in overcoming the steep rise in unemployment and underemployment since the global financial crisis. At the Oslo Conference, IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and ILO Director-General Juan Somavia called for a broad international commitment to a jobs-focused policy response to the global downturn. The objective of the conference, as stated in the joint discussion document, was “to improve the integration of employment and social policies with international and national macroeconomic policy strategies. This requires a better understanding of the forces at work in the global economy, and the contributing factors, both globally and nationally to these, and how a wider array of policy tools can contribute to better outcomes for people, communities and global sustainable development.”
At Oslo, the IMF and the ILO agreed to work together on policy development in two areas:
- A social protection floor for people living in poverty and in vulnerable situations, within the context of a medium- to long-term framework of sustainable macroeconomic policies and strategies for development.
- Policies to promote employment-creating growth.
“Leaders have to look at jobs as the centre of economic growth,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary. “They have to look at investment as something achieved through wages. That’s why there is optimism about the ILO and IMF working together. They are not afraid of dialogue with workers to find solutions to the problems we all face”, she added.
Stephen Pursey, Director of the ILO Policy Integration Department, said that a policy package that can help achieve growth with higher levels of employment needs to include active labour market policies, which allow workers to keep their jobs during a downturn. These policies include: assistance for the small and medium enterprises that generate the bulk of new employment; social protection floor polices to assist the most vulnerable; minimum wages; broad adherence to collective bargaining arrangements; and labour contract laws that contain job-security guarantees.
Earlier this year at the G20 meeting in Paris, Dominique Strauss-Kahn commented on the social crisis due to job recovery lagging behind the economic recovery and said: "Growth without jobs is not meaningful to the man in the street, so we are far from having done our job."
The work ahead requires a greater focus on job-creating growth, with social protection and social dialogue as key elements in the process. The 100th International Labour Conference, to be held 1-17 June 2011 in Geneva, will further address these issues and Dominique Strauss-Kahn will deliver a keynote speech.