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274th Session
Geneva, March 1999

Committee on Employment and Social Policy



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

(a) Country employment policy reviews

1. In March 1998, the Committee reviewed an Office paper(1)  on the progress made to date with regard to the ILO's country employment policy reviews (CEPRs). Expressing its strong and continued interest in the subject, the Committee asked the Office to report, at the 273rd Session of the Governing Body (November 1998), on further progress in their implementation. Owing to lack of time it was unfortunately not possible to discuss the issue then. The paper prepared for that session(2)  is now resubmitted, and has been updated to provide an account of progress made in respect of the CEPRs up to the end of January 1999. 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 basic workers' rights (Commitment 3(a) of the Declaration). The CEPRs are intended to help member States give substance to their commitment through an appropriate choice of economic and social policies and through the establishment of efficient institutions and the necessary legal framework. The Programme and Budget proposals for 1998-99 foresee some eight to ten reviews, in countries selected to ensure a balance between the regions and different levels of development.

2. In the current round of CEPRs, countries have been selected from among developing and transition countries, as well as OECD member countries. The former include Barbados, Brazil, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Pakistan, and Thailand; the latter Austria, Denmark, Ireland, and the Netherlands. Ukraine was selected from the transition countries and has been reviewed. The CEPRs in the four OECD member countries are being carried out within a comparative framework. All CEPRs are implemented with the full consent of the governments and with the full cooperation of the social partners. Some, often substantial, preliminary work was carried out in a few countries during the second half of 1997.

3. 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 April 1999.

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, based on these, a draft report written. The draft CEPR report was discussed at a national tripartite seminar in Kyiv 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 social 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 was fielded during May 1998 by ILO/EAMAT, headquarters officials and local experts. Extensive consultations were held with various government agencies, employers' and workers' organizations, researchers and representatives of several donor agencies, including UNDP and the IMF. A draft CEPR report was later prepared and discussed intensively during a five-day national tripartite seminar held on 28 September-2 October 1998. UNDP agreed to co-sponsor the national seminar and expects to derive substantial input 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 social 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 preparation of the report, and a number of technical papers were commissioned from local experts. A national tripartite workshop was held from 12 to 13 October 1998, and the report is now being finalized.

7. The CEPRs are also under way in Côte d'Ivoire, Pakistan and Thailand. In Côte d'Ivoire, the constituents have given formal endorsement to conduct the review, and preparations to implement the CEPR are being made by the MDT in Abidjan. In Pakistan 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 have been prepared, and the background technical documentation is currently being carried out. A draft CEPR report is expected by April 1999. In Thailand, the Government has formally consented to conducting a CEPR, and the ILO has already undertaken an employment mission to initiate its implementation. The terms of reference have been written and background documentation is being prepared. The CEPR in Thailand will closely follow the priority policy issues as warranted by the current economic crisis.

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 macroeconomic and labour market policy and industrial relations issues. A basic thesis examined in all reports is that tripartite agreement on a number of key issues has played a major 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 the experience of individual countries. This was also supported because these countries are frequently being reviewed individually by other international organizations, such as the OECD, the European Commission and the IMF.

10. On receipt of formal consent from 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 missions met senior government officials and representatives of the social partners. In Austria constituents recommended that the effectiveness and the future of social partnership, as well as its contribution to Austria's relatively positive employment and unemployment record, 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 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 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, four thematic reports and a comparative report. The themes selected were industrial relations, with a particular focus on employment; gender equality; working time flexibility; and macroeconomic policy. These themes, which are significant in analysing the success or failure of employment promotion cut across, and in some cases have gone beyond, the four countries. The drafts of the country reports have been received, commented on by the ILO, and given to the constituents. All the social partners reviewed and commented on their respective national reports. These, as well as the thematic reports, have now been finalized.

12. A meeting of experts was held in Geneva on 16-17 October to discuss the findings and analyses of the four individual country reviews and the thematic papers. The meeting focused on the major policy and institutional factors explaining the countries' relative success in employment. The meeting has provided insights that will help structure the comparative report and possible follow-up work. The comparative report not only seeks to analyse the factors and policies explaining the observed success in the four countries, but also attempts 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 2-3 March 1999, bringing together high-level representatives of the governments and the employers' and workers' organizations of the four countries under review, as well as representatives of the OECD and the European Commission and the social attachés of the European countries. 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 to 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 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 core labour standards of the ILO, 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.

(b) Other activities

15. Four regional consultations concerning follow-up on the World Summit for Social Development will have been held by the time the Committee meets. These consultations, in Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and in Africa, and the consultation involving four Western European countries, are part of preparations for the International Consultation. A similar meeting is planned for September 1999 in Beirut, with full tripartite participation from countries in the Arab region.

16. The Asian Regional Consultation concerning Follow-up on the World Summit for Social Development was held in Bangkok from 13 to 15 January 1999. The Consultation was attended by 46 participants from 12 countries and one from Hong Kong, China, including 21 government representatives from ministries of labour and agencies in charge of development planning, 12 employers' representatives and 13 workers' representatives. Representatives of the IMF and the World Bank also attended the Consultation, as well as a number of other expert resource persons. Representatives of four international employers' and workers' organizations and six intergovernmental organizations, including the Asian Development Bank, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and other UN agencies, and of several other countries, attended as observers.

17. The Consultation discussed a report entitled "Towards full employment: Prospects and problems in Asia and the Pacific".(3)  The Consultation formed four tripartite working groups whose "statements of common understanding" formed the conclusions of the meeting. As regards meeting national obligations made under Commitment 3 of the Copenhagen Declaration, the conclusions stressed that policies and reforms were necessary to ensure a sound macroeconomic framework and to attract investment, while conscious efforts were required to achieve social progress; countries should design their own blend of policies to attract foreign direct investment, encourage the growth of job-creating enterprises, and equip their workforces with the skills needed to obtain productive employment and maintain their employability; productive, and not speculative, investment should receive greater attention in framing development and growth policies needed in order to boost exports and employment, while priority should be given to developing an appropriate strategy for industrial restructuring, which often was not fully addressed in standard structural adjustment programmes; in order to ensure broad- based growth it was necessary to foster consultations between governments and the social partners to achieve the widest possible consensus; investment in human resource development (HRD) needed to be accorded the highest policy priority, while the high rate of unemployment among the educated had raised concerns over skill mismatches; education and skill development programmes should be responsive to market demand and result in a highly skilled and employable labour force.

18. The Consultation concerning Follow-up on the World Summit for Social Development for selected Central and Eastern European Countries (Budapest, 26-28 January 1999) was attended by 30 participants from ten countries, including 11 government representatives, nine employers' and ten workers' representatives. Representatives of international employers' and workers' organizations also attended. The meeting considered a report entitled "Employment and labour market policies in selected transition economies".

19. The meeting's conclusions were the following: there needed to be coordination and consistency between economic and social policies to guarantee that they reinforce each other to promote full, productive and freely chosen employment; a necessary condition for high growth rates was to stabilize the national economy; the job-creation capacity of the small enterprise sector depended on the formation and enforcement of an appropriate regulatory, financial and political environment; labour market policies and social protection measures needed to be mutually consistent and supportive; solving the problem of the non-payment of wages had to receive the highest priority by governments and the social partners; an adequate institutional environment was needed for the design and implementation of employment and labour market policies; to make social dialogue fully effective, tripartite national negotiations should be combined with collective bargaining at sectoral, regional and enterprise levels; to make tripartism work required not only the political will to engage in a substantive dialogue but also independent, representative and competent social partners.

20. The corresponding meeting for the Africa region took place as the sixth biennial meeting of African employment planners in Abidjan on 8-12 February 1999. It was attended by 55 participants from 18 countries, including 21 government, 18 employers' and 16 workers' representatives. Regional trade union organizations also attended, as well as observers from the African Development Bank, the Organization for African Unity and the UNDP.

21. The meeting came to the following summary conclusions: economic and social reforms (notably structural adjustment programmes) should be based on social consensus; employment needed to be a key component of economic and social policy, including at the subregional, regional and international levels; it was important to share the burden of adjustment more equally among the different groups in society, making it possible for a national consensus to be formed; debt relief was not a moral issue, but a real economic problem, as the debt hampered growth; States should protect to a certain extent their emerging dynamic and export-oriented national industrial fabric; caution should be exercised in trade liberalization and internal restructuring, and appropriate social protection systems were a prerequisite to opening up to foreign markets; access to technology was not the only cause of productivity gains, since manpower training, managerial skills, the organization of production and work and research were also important factors; subregional and regional economic integration had been found to promote investment and job creation and could be facilitated through the effective implementation of a legal and regulatory framework for the free circulation of persons and goods, the harmonization of business laws, the development of negotiation and bargaining capacities and participation in international economic debates such as the Uruguay Round and UNCTAD; social dialogue, and more specifically consultation between governments, social partners, civil society and NGOs was highly necessary for the reform of training systems; fundamental international labour standards should be ratified and implemented; employment promotion for women enhanced democracy, equity and the respect of human rights and ensured sustained growth and the well-being of the population as a whole.

22. As noted above, the meeting for the four European countries will be held on 2-3 March 1999, shortly before the Governing Body. An oral report will be provided to the Committee.

Geneva, 19 February 1999.

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

2. GB.273/ESP/5.


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