ILO Statement to the Second Committee of the 66th General Assembly

Tackling informal labour markets and boosting rural development are primary challenges for LDCs

For LDCs, it is essential to encourage economic diversification and a gradual transition to productive formal employment that extends voice, rights and protections in the workplace.

Statement | New York | 21 October 2011
Mr. Chair,

Promoting productive capacities and a critical mass of job-creating enterprises is key to achieving the MDGs and to setting the LDCs on a sustainable development route. Experience of the past few decades shows that high economic growth does not by itself generate the productive employment needed to eradicate poverty and realize the demographic dividend. There is a need for coherent development strategies centred on jobs and linking together new macroeconomic frameworks; public and private investments; support to SMEs; and labour market policies to develop a skilled and productive workforce.

In preparation for the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the ILO published a report entitled Growth, Productive Employment and Decent Work in the LDCs. The report, based on sectoral analyses, identifies the opportunities, strengths, and weaknesses of the current LDCs development pattern. It also provides policy options to promote job intensive growth for long term stability and sustainable development in LDCs and in country specific contexts. The report calls for pragmatic and realistic actions. For instance, it suggests that LDCs may begin by focusing on the promotion of one or two private sector-led value chains in areas where there is a potential for the expansion of sustainable local industries. Turning policy into practice, the ILO together with a host of other international agencies, launched a programme in Istanbul to provide integrated assistance to the development of a sustainable tourism industry in LDCs.

Mr. Chair,

The quality of jobs is a critical dimension in need of further consideration. Most people in LDCs are already at work but their potential remains untapped and the incomes they earn are not sufficient to escape poverty traps. It is essential to tackle the question of the informality of work in LDCs by encouraging a gradual transition to productive formal employment. This requires policies and institutions for voice, rights and protection. Similarly, rural development will remain the battleground for poverty reduction for many years to come. We must encourage economic diversification. Efforts should be made to encourage virtuous circles between improvements in productivity and incomes in agriculture, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the development of labour-intensive local non-farm activities.

The Social Protection Floor provides a critical complement to efforts to promote a resilient economy, a stable society and to ensure that those who worked their way out of poverty are not dragged back. The costs of social protection have to be balanced by the benefits. It is a matter of priority and political will. ILO analysis shows that the costs of a minimum package of social benefits are affordable even in very low income countries if elements of a Floor are sequenced and gradually introduced. A careful assessment of the long and medium-term implications of public finances is essential. In this regard, the ILO and IMF are partnering in a number of pilot countries to analyze the gaps, minimum requirements and costs of a social protection floor as well as assessing present and future fiscal space with the government to ensure that the design and implementation of the Floor fully respects the requirements of financial sustainability. The lessons from this novel collaboration can be beneficial to other LDCs wishing to strengthen policy coherence between their macroeconomic and employment and labour market policies.

The role of the private sector is a key factor for success in LDCs. At the ILO, we can take particular advantage of our links with employers’ organizations and trade unions to assist in developing a strong, efficient private sector. The ILO Better Work programme, in cooperation with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), is one example where international buyers have been brought together with employers, trade unions and governments in Cambodia and Haiti, to forge a unique partnership aimed at expanding exports and jobs in the apparel industry while at the same time helping to improve working conditions and compliance with international core labour standards.

Mr. Chair,

Many of the policy considerations which I just highlighted, like those contained in the ILO report to the 4th UN LDC conference, have been included in the Istanbul Plan of Action and also reiterated at the 12th ILO African Regional Meeting held in Johannesburg, South Africa last week. The ILO regional meeting set out future priority actions for the African region to achieve efficient growth, employment and Decent Work. These outcomes may provide assistance in implementing the Istanbul Plan of Action, particularly as it relates to building productive capacities. The ILO remains committed to pursue and expand our cooperation in LDCs through our multiple and broad international partnerships for a new era of job-rich inclusive growth and social justice and to contribute to the successful implementation of the Istanbul Plan of Action.

I thank you.