The UN commemorates the ILO’s 100th anniversary

Press release | UNHQ, New York | 08 April 2019

The centenary of the ILO is an important milestone for the United Nations, with the ILO being the first specialized agency of the UN. The ILO was founded on the realization that social justice and labour standards were needed to ensure economic progress, as well as prosperity and peace for all. This message remains relevant 100 years later, particularly in the face of new challenges and rapid changes in the world of work including technological advancements, structural transformations, changing demographics, and globalization and climate change. The future of work presents countless opportunities to reverse long-term decent work deficits, but it also presents serious challenges that could increase inequalities and joblessness if not well managed. Policy makers and leaders can shape the future of work with the right policies.

General Assembly Resolution A/RES/73/282 decided to devote a one day meeting during its seventy-third session, to commemorate of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the ILO under the theme “The Future of Work” and to convene a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly on 10 April 2019.

The High-Level Meeting is being convened by the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés. The event will feature an opening segment, followed by a commemorative plenary with statements delivered by government representatives. Two interactive panels will take place in the afternoon focusing on, ‘Addressing Unfinished Commitments to Achieve Decent Work for All’ and ‘Shaping the Future of Work’. Panelists including Reema Nanavaty of the Self Employed Women’s Association, Mthunzi Mdwaba of TZoro IBC, Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, Angel Gurria of the OECD, Rob Acker of and Winnie Byanyima of Oxfam t, will share their insights and contributions to inclusive and comprehensive discussions.

The first panel discussion on ‘Addressing Unfinished Commitments to Achieve Decent Work for All’ will examine the existing challenges that the new forces transforming the world of work threaten to exacerbate. These include high unemployment levels, the billions of workers in informal employment, poor conditions of work particularly for workers in extreme poverty, the millions of victims of modern slavery, wage inequality, the gender pay gap, unacceptable working hours, the millions of work-related accidents per year, and millions of workers deprived of fundamental rights and unable to make their voices heard.

The second panel discussion on ‘Shaping the Future of Work’ will examine the transitions in the world of work driven by rapid changes in technology, demography and climate change, all requiring decisive action. The opportunities to improve the quality of working lives will also come with important challenges. In the face of these opportunities and challenges, a reinvigorated social contract is necessary to make economic growth more inclusive and sustainable and ensure that workers are provided with a fair share of economic development. New regulations and policies should be designed to address non-standard forms of employment, social protection and employment relations, new business models and collective bargaining.

A number of preexisting and new challenges in the world of work pose challenges for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth. The onset of new technological advances generate opportunities for new jobs and skills, yet some jobs will be lost as a result of new technologies. Skills acquisition and lifelong learning will be required for workers to remain agile and employable with growing global dependence on constantly evolving technology. Changing demographics, including growing youth populations in some areas and ageing populations in others, place pressure on labour markets and social security systems. The growing trend in part-time employment, particularly among women and youth, can sometimes be the entry door to the job market, but can also lead to widespread insecurity.

Women remain to be paid less, are more likely to work in vulnerable categories of work, and continue to bear the brunt of unpaid and domestic work. Youth employment remains a global challenge with more than 64 million unemployed youth and 145 million young workers living in poverty worldwide. Developing countries are experiencing additional challenges with high levels of informality and the need to transition workers to formal employment. Additional challenges are faced by countries in diversifying economies away from low-productivity agriculture to high value sectors like banking and finance, service provision, mobile and digital technologies, communications and manufacturing.

Forging a new path in the future of work requires commitment and action from all stakeholders, particularly governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations. Social dialogue is crucial in developing effective policy responses. Skills development, social protection, social dialogue, equal opportunity, occupation safety and health and adequate labour market regulations are essential components of the policy responses needed to shape a future of work with sustained and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all, as hoped for in SDG 8.

The High-Level Meeting will be broadcast live, and available to view after the event on UN Web TV. The opening session and commemorative plenary will be broadcasted from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (EST).The interactive panel discussions will be broadcasted from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.. See the social media advisory for more information.