Informal economy

Employment, informality and social protection in the Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands’ first National Employment Policy is currently under development.

Press release | Honiara, Solomon Islands | 23 March 2023
Seminar participants, Honiara, Solomon Island. © ILO
HONIARA, Solomon Islands (ILO News) - The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Government of Solomon Islands through the Ministry of Commerce, Industries, Labour and Immigration, in partnership with the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Solomon Islands Council of Trade Unions, is undertaking a two-day Seminar on Employment, Informality and Social Protection. The seminar is in line with the country’s priority areas under the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2035.

The discussions covered during this Seminar include a recapitulation of key areas to be covered under the Solomon Islands’ first National Employment Policy that is currently under development. Moreover, discussions are being facilitated on the transition towards formality. and on developing incentives to encourage informal enterprises to formalize. Finally, the Seminar discusses and validates a diagnostic review of the social protection system in Solomon Islands.

During the opening remarks, the Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Commerce, Industries, Labour and Immigration, Mr Riley Mesepitu, highlighted areas that the labour market in Solomon Islands has always been exposed to disruptions due to external economic and financial shocks, as well as natural disasters having a direct impact on economic growth and livelihoods, often leading to a high degree of economic volatility due to limited fiscal space.

As a small island state that depends on external trade, tourism, remittances and foreign aid, these disruptions are felt more severely. In simple terms, the sources of growth for the small economies are driven through its major trading partners and their connectivity to the regional/global economy. As a developing country, Solomon Islands has limited economic resources and lacks financial, technical, and technological capacity to effectively adapt and manage large-scale disasters - including recovery activities from the recent pandemic. Relatively, the social protection systems in Solomon Islands are of small scale which have fallen victim to economic disruptions.

The Permanent Secretary further stated that, despite facing budget limitations with the priority being allocated to hosting the SPG, the Ministry is not losing track of these important areas that needs to be achieved for the betterment of the people of Solomon Islands. Mr Riley thanked the ILO, the SDG Fund, the European Union and the UNDP for co-funding the two-day seminar, and the stakeholders who were invited to participate during the seminar.

Group discussions during the seminar, Honiara, Solomon Island. © ILO
The ILO’s Employment Specialist, Mr Christian Viegelahn, underlined the important role that a national employment policy, formalization strategies and social protection can play in the currently challenging economic environment to create decent jobs on the labour market. He underlined the importance of broad-based consultations and country ownership in the process and emphasized that the ILO stands ready to provide continued support to the government and social partners.

The activities discussed at the workshop are supported through a project on Advancing the SDGs by improving livelihoods and resilience via economic diversification and digital transformation, financed through the SDG fund, and implemented by the ILO with a number of other UN institutions, as well as a project on Supporting informal enterprises transition towards sustainable growth and formalization in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions, initiated by the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), financed by the European Union and UNDP, and implemented by ILO and UNDP. The work on social protection is jointly undertaken by the ILO with UNDP and UNICEF.

The Seminar was facilitated by Mr Christian Viegelahn, alongside Ms Helen Kirsch, Technical Officer, and Mr Bimlesh Raj, Programme Officer, based in ILO’s Office for Pacific Island Countries in Suva, Fiji. It also included sessions led by Ms Judith van Doorn, Specialist on Enterprise Formalization, and Mr Kareem Bayo, Technical Officer, both based at ILO's Headquarters in Geneva, as well as by Mr Stephen Barrett, Social Protection Expert and ILO Consultant.