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273rd Session
Geneva, November 1998

Committee on Employment and Social Policy



Progress report on country employment policy reviews,
including the tripartite meeting on the reviews for
Austria, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands

1. In March 1998 the Committee reviewed an Office paper(1) on the progress made to date with regard to the ILO's country-level employment policy reviews (CEPRs). Expressing its strong and continued interest in the subject, the Committee asked the Office to report, at the present session of the Governing Body, on further progress on their implementation. This paper provides an account of progress made in respect of the CEPRs as at end September 1998. It will be recalled that the CEPR exercise is part of ILO activities to give effect to the Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Summit for Social Development (WSSD), and in particular to promoting the goal of full, productive and freely chosen employment with full respect for workers' basic rights (commitment 3(i) of the Declaration). The CEPRs are intended to help member States to give substance to their commitment through an appropriate choice of economic and social policies, as well as through the establishment of efficient institutions and the necessary legal framework. The Programme and Budget for 1998-99 foresees eight to ten reviews in countries selected on considerations of regional balance and levels of development.

2. In the current round of CEPRs, countries have been selected from among developing and transition countries, as well as from OECD member countries. The former are Barbados, Brazil, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Pakistan and Thailand, the latter, Austria, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands. One or two additional developing countries are expected to be reviewed during 1998-99. The CEPRs in the four OECD member countries are being carried out, as desired by their governments, within a comparative framework. All CEPRs are implemented with the full consent of the governments and with the full cooperation of the social partners.

3. Some, often substantial, preliminary work was carried out in a few countries during the second half of 1997. The CEPR in Brazil was initiated in August 1997, after full consent was given by the social partners. More than 20 background technical reports were prepared and a tripartite technical workshop was held on 4-5 December 1997 to review the papers and assess their implications for the objectives of employment generation through skill enhancement, improved competitiveness and better working conditions. A synthesis report is being assembled, which will be submitted to the social partners. A shorter English version of the report is also being prepared. These are expected to be completed by the end of November 1998.

4. In Ukraine, the CEPR was launched following a national tripartite employment conference organized by the ILO in October 1997. The conference provided the basic guidelines for drawing up the terms of reference for the review, which focused, in particular, on the declining trends in employment, labour market conditions and social protection. Background documentation was subsequently prepared by local experts and a draft report has been written. The draft CEPR report, which is currently being reviewed, will be discussed at a proposed national seminar in October 1998.

5. The CEPR in Kenya was launched through a preliminary mission conducted by ILO/EAMAT in August 1997, when formal approval was given. On the basis of a discussion with the tripartite partners, the terms of reference were drawn up and five detailed background papers were prepared by local experts on macroeconomic and sectoral policies, wages and wage setting, social security, small and medium-sized enterprises and labour markets, and labour market information systems. An employment policy mission by ILO/EAMAT and headquarters officials and local experts was fielded during May 1998. Extensive consultations were held with various government agencies, employers' and workers' organizations, researchers and representatives of several donor agencies, including the UNDP and the IMF. A draft CEPR report has been prepared which, it is envisaged, will have been discussed intensively during a five-day national tripartite seminar commencing 28 September 1998. The Committee may wish to note that UNDP, which has agreed to co-sponsor the national seminar, expects to derive substantial inputs from the CEPR for its next programming cycle.

6. The CEPR in Barbados is also nearing completion. The review was launched during an exploratory mission by ILO/CAMAT in July 1997, and a tripartite meeting chaired by the Minister of Labour approved the exercise. The terms of reference were discussed with the tripartite partners, academics and the donor community in February 1998. The UN Resident Coordinator called on all UN agencies in Barbados to cooperate fully with the ILO. A tripartite steering committee was set up to oversee the preparation of the report, and a number of technical papers were commissioned from local experts. A national tripartite workshop is scheduled for 12-13 October 1998.

7. The CEPRs are also under way in Côte d'Ivoire and Pakistan. In Côte d'Ivoire, the constituents have provided formal endorsement to conduct the review, and preparations to implement the CEPR are being made by the MDT in Abidjan. In Pakistan the constituents also welcomed the ILO initiative. Accordingly, the CEPR was launched through an ILO employment mission consisting of officials from headquarters, ILO/SAAT and the Area Office in August 1998. The social partners stressed to the mission that it was imperative to enhance employment generation, productivity and skill development in the economy. The terms of reference for the review are currently being prepared, after which technical documentation will be carried out. A draft CEPR report is expected by March 1999. In Thailand, the Government has formally consented to conducting a CEPR, and the ILO is making the necessary preparations to initiate its implementation.

8. In Austria, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands, contacts were established with the governments and social partners earlier in 1998. These four, smaller countries of the European Union were selected largely on the basis of their relative success in either reducing the level of unemployment and increasing employment, or in maintaining comparatively low unemployment rates in recent years through innovative employment and labour market policies. These country reviews look at issues of labour market policies and wage determination in terms both of numerical outcomes and of institutions. A basic proposition being examined in all the reports is that tripartite agreement on a number of key issues has played a major direct and indirect role in job creation and improving employment outcomes.

9. It emerged at an early stage that the four governments preferred the CEPRs to take the form of a comparative review, with illustrations drawn from individual country experiences. This was also supported because these countries are frequently being reviewed individually by other international organizations, for example, the OECD, the European Commission and the IMF. A draft framework paper for the comparative review was discussed within the Office.

10. On receipt of the formal consent of the governments and full approval by the social partners, the ILO fielded brief missions to these countries between February and April 1998. During these endorsement meetings the ILO mission met senior government officials and representatives of the social partners. In Austria the constituents recommended that the effectiveness and the future of social partnership, as well as its contribution to the relatively positive employment and unemployment record of Austria, should be investigated. One point stressed was the high degree of mobility within the Austrian labour market, despite unchanged labour market regulation. In Denmark, constituents encouraged focusing on the working of the employment system, concentrating in particular on recent labour market reforms. In the Netherlands, the ILO was urged to look into the reforms of the social security system and to examine whether current policies adequately addressed the labour market problems. In Ireland, the constituents stressed the importance of tripartite agreements and pointed not only to foreign direct investment and the availability of structural funds as an explanation of success, but also to home-grown approaches in labour market policies, education and training.

11. While all the constituents raised specific issues for investigation, they nevertheless welcomed the ILO's broad framework and the modalities drawn up. The latter included four in-depth, individual country reports as well as four thematic reports. The themes selected were industrial relations, with a particular focus on social pacts for employment; gender equality; working time flexibility; and macroeconomic policy. These themes, which are significant in analysing the success or failure of employment promotion will cut across, and in some cases go beyond, the four countries. The initial drafts of the country reports have been received, commented on by the ILO, and given to the constituents. All the social partners are expected to review and comment on their respective national reports. The thematic reports are expected to be submitted in October 1998.

12. A meeting of experts will be held in Geneva on 16-17 October to discuss the findings and analyses of the four individual country reviews and of the thematic papers. The meeting will focus on the major policy and institutional factors explaining the countries' relative success in employment. The meeting will make it easier to structure the comparative report and possible follow-up work. The background studies would then be finalized. The comparative report will not only seek to analyse the factors and policies explaining the observed success in the four countries, but will also attempt to draw attention to broad-based policy conclusions that may be valid in other countries.

13. The comparative report will be presented at a symposium to be held in Geneva on 25-26 February 1999 bringing together high-level representatives of the governments, and employers' and workers' organizations, of the four countries under review, as well as representatives of the OECD and the European Commission. The symposium will allow policy-makers to discuss how best to address their current labour market problems; to devise measures to remove basic constraints on growth and development; to discuss how far the solutions found are sustainable under increasing globalization; and to examine whether these can serve as policy examples for other countries. It should also provide an opportunity for a frank exchange of views between the social partners, to increase awareness of the problems, and to develop a much-needed consensus on ways of resolving them.

14. All the CEPRs currently being carried out are intended to provide support to member States to design and formulate policies and programmes leading towards a state of full employment with full respect for workers' basic rights. The focus of the individual CEPRs naturally varies depending on the policy agenda of the individual countries. Nevertheless, the core issues and concerns as defined in commitment 3 of the Copenhagen Declaration and elaborated in the WSSD Plan of Action, including respect for universal values such as those contained in the ILO's core labour standards, are the common element of the exercise. The reviews will be reflected in the Office report being prepared for the International Consultation concerning Follow-up on the World Summit for Social Development, to be held in Geneva on 2-4 November 1999.

Geneva, 2 October 1998.

1. GB.271/ESP/3/2.

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