ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

271st Session
Geneva, March 1998

Committee on Employment and Social Policy



Preparations for the 1999 International
Consultation concerning follow-up on the
World Summit for Social Development

(c) Agenda of the International Consultation and participation

1. The Programme and Budget for 1998-99 includes provision (paragraph 60.32) for an International Consultation concerning Follow-up on the World Summit for Social Development. This will take the form of a high-level tripartite meeting of policy-makers to be held in Geneva over three days in 1999. It has been proposed that the Consultation be held from 18 to 20 October 1999. Representatives of 30 governments, 15 employers' and 15 workers' organizations will be invited to attend. The meeting will review action taken concerning follow-up on the Summit and the results achieved at the national level, examine the reasons for their success or failure, and identify the constraints inhibiting the economic growth that leads to employment generation. The meeting, to which other international agencies will be invited as observers, will also seek to identify measures that can be taken to support the policy and institutional reforms that may be necessary to promote the goal of full employment.


2. The following agenda is proposed for the International Consultation:

  1. Introduction.
  2. Progress towards full employment.
  3. Determinants of full employment.
  4. Overcoming the constraints affecting the achievement of full employment: Necessary policy and institutional reform.
  5. ILO support for policy and institutional reform

3. The first item -- Introduction -- will refer back to Commitment 3 of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development, concerning the promotion of the goal of full employment as a basic priority of economic and social policies. Other relevant commitments adopted in Copenhagen, concerning the economic, social and human resource development of Africa, the least developed countries, and social development goals in structural adjustment programmes, will be noted, as will be the conclusions of other global summits where they concern the imperative of employment promotion. The introduction will also draw on the conclusions of the 1996 International Labour Conference "concerning the achievement of full employment in a global context: the responsibility of governments, employers and trade unions".1 These conclusions found that full employment remained an achievable goal and that the objective of full employment was valid for all countries. Furthermore, it provided a notion around which policies could be formulated for raising both the volume and quality of employment. The section in the conclusions entitled A framework for policy will be drawn on to highlight some practical ILO principles concerning employment promotion.

4. The section Progress towards full employment will review the world employment situation since 1995, the year of the Social Summit; the facts will be set out regionally, subregionally and with reference to national experience. Progress will be reviewed in terms not just of numbers employed, unemployed or underemployed, but equally in terms of the quality of employment. Quality can be measured in terms of various parameters, including wage levels, employment security, working conditions, participation in decision-making, skill levels and the absence of discrimination and other abusive behaviour. Information will be collected and presented on trends, for example, in the distribution of household income in order to document the relative position of the poor, the situation of poor women, ethnic minorities, etc. as regards jobs, training and earnings. Changes regarding freedom of association will be recorded. All this information will be presented against the background of the changing world economic situation, with its developments in terms of trade, capital and migration flows. Where possible, use will be made of the key labour market indicators currently being assembled by the Office.

5. The item on Determinants of full employment will discuss factors that can facilitate and retard the achievement of full employment. This section will draw on ILO experience at the country level, including experience gained in carrying out the country employment policy reviews. Attention will be paid to the role of good policies, practices and institutions, since the establishment of transparent, informed and well-functioning institutions of various kinds is a precondition for choosing good policies. A major facilitating factor in achieving full employment is the preservation of a sustained rate of demand for labour, building on high and efficient rates of investment. In addition, income growth is essential since, although poverty and poor-quality employment are not the same, low income levels turn the risk of extensive poor quality employment into a virtual certainty. Growth should also be steady, as labour markets often adapt badly to severe fluctuations in the demand for labour. But overcoming the negative effects of fluctuations caused, for example, by external or technological shocks, requires both good policies and effective institutions. The latter include not only government capacity to make adequate decisions, but also effective organizations of workers and employers. Bad governance and corruption are constraints that affect full employment and are likely to lead not just to a biased choice of policies, but also to widespread distrust and lack of cooperation. Other constraints affecting the achievement of full employment include poor access to capital and other inputs, impediments to enterprise growth, inappropriate signals from the labour market and, above all from the point of view of the quality of employment, any feature that prevents all social groups from enjoying equal access to education, training and jobs.

6. The next section -- Overcoming the constraints affecting the achievement of full employment -- will deal with the policy and institutional reforms needed to maximize the effects of the facilitating factors and minimize those of the retarding factors. A number of such reforms fall outside the competence of the ILO, such as ensuring government capacity to mobilize adequate resources. Others operate at the global level, particularly the conditions surrounding trade and financial flows and access to markets. On many such issues the ILO has legitimate concerns to express. At the national level and directly within the ILO's competence are such features as creating effective tripartite cooperation to promote employment expansion and to improve the handling of labour market issues within an appropriate legislative framework; promoting training so as to reduce discrimination in the labour market, on the one hand, and ease the introduction of new technology, on the other; promoting the growth of small enterprises and upgrading the informal sector; and encouraging participation and democratic collective action through appropriate regulatory legislation. This section will refer back to the principles set out in the 1996 International Labour Conference conclusions and illustrate them with important country examples of successful performance taken partly from the country employment policy reviews. Emphasis will be placed on country experience of positive steps towards establishing and using effective institutions, especially tripartite consultation and collective bargaining, to improve policy decisions and labour market outcomes.

7. The final section will discuss ILO support for policy and institutional reform. This section will discuss a range of ILO activities, beginning with the collection, analysis and dissemination of labour market and related information. Other ILO activities concern country-level interaction with constituents through the Active Partnership Policy, chiefly the responsibility of the MDTs and area offices. Examples will be reviewed of where the ILO has been able to contribute significantly to national efforts to meet commitments following from pledges made at the Social Summit. In this national context particular attention will be paid to ILO efforts made to help employers' and workers' organizations cooperate effectively in such follow-up on the World Social Summit. A final part will take stock of the ILO's progress in promoting the implementation of core labour standards in order to ensure equitable distribution of the benefits of globalization.


8. Two criteria for deciding which governments to invite to the International Consultation are the need to ensure fair regional representation, and inviting on a priority basis the governments of countries that have hosted a country employment policy review. The following table suggests possible government representation. Decisions on the additional countries would be left, after guidance from the Committee, to discussion with the regional groups in Geneva.



CEPR countries




Hungary, Ukraine, Netherlands, (Ireland),* Austria, (Denmark)*

2 larger EU countries
1 CIS country



Chile, Brazil, Barbados

2 (or more) from North America
1 (or more) from Central America



(New Zealand),* Nepal, Pakistan*

2 (or more) from East Asia
2 (or more) from West Asia



Kenya, Côte d'Ivoire

1 (or more) from Southern Africa
1 (or more) from North Africa
1 (or more) from Central Africa

* Arrangements for CEPRs in these countries are not yet final.

9. Governments will be urged to be represented at a high level. Observers will be invited in addition to regular participants. In this respect it is proposed that all agencies that participated in the ACC Task Force on Full Employment and Sustainable Livelihoods should be invited to send observers. These agencies include those responsible for the initial steps in earlier reviews (UNESCO, UNDP and the World Bank), as well as others including the United Nations (Department for Economic and Social Information and Policy Analysis), IMF, UNICEF, UNIDO, FAO and others. The OECD secretariat and the European Commission may also be invited as observers.

Geneva, 15 February 1998.

1  GB.267/ESP/3/2 and GB.267/10, para. 54.

Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.