Employment and decent work

Opening remarks at the Official Launch of the Fiji National Employment Policy

By Mr Donglin Li, Director, ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries at the Opening remarks at the Launch of Fiji National Employment Policy

Statement | Suva, Fiji | 03 September 2018
  • Honourable Jone Usamate, Minister, Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations
  • Salaseini Daunabua, Permanent Secretary, MEPIR
  • Nesbitt Hazelman, Chief Executive Officer, Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation (FCEF)
  • Agni Deo Singh, Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC)
  • Members of the Diplomatic Corps
  • My colleagues from the UNCT
  • Distinguished guests
  • Ladies and gentlemen
I am privileged to be invited to address this august gathering on the Launch of the National Employment Policy (NEF) for Fiji. It is indeed heartening to see such a high-level gathering of senior officials and different stakeholders. This is a reflection of the commitment of the government, employers, workers and other stakeholders to jointly promote employment opportunities and decent work for all in Fiji.

I sincerely congratulate the Minister and his team on this excellent work. I commend all of you in particular, ILO tripartite partners, for your contributions and efforts to make such an achievement after two years development and consultation process. I especially thank the ADB for their financial support to ILO. The NEP is an overarching framework that sets the stage for a coherent and integrated vision to balance productivity, employment creation, social protection and sustainability. We in the ILO are privileged to have supported the Fiji Government and the social partners in developing the Policy. I believe this policy will play a critical role to promote and improve labour force employability and competitiveness of the enterprises.

Ladies and gentlemen, as a specialized agency of United Nations, the International Labour Organization seeks the promotion of social justice since its inception in 1919. The primary goal of the ILO today is to promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Decent work is not just about having a job. It is about the quality of employment that provides an adequate income to keep workers and their families out of poverty. It is about basic rights at work and having a voice in decision-making. It is about having a social protection floor to face contingencies of life and a cushion during economic downturns.

Ladies and Gentlemen, achieving decent work for all particularly for youth is a challenge shared by all countries across the world these days. Youth unemployment and underemployment are serious problems in almost all countries, including the Pacific Island Countries. As per ILO estimates, more than 200 million people are unemployed worldwide, including nearly 80 million youth. Another 156 million young workers are living in poverty. There are 40 Million new comers to the labour market every year. The global youth unemployment rate stood at about 13 per cent. On average, young women and men are two to three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. ILO estimates that youth unemployment rate is 23 per cent in the Pacific, some countries even more than 50 per cent. In Fiji, youth unemployment stands at 18% and may be increasing as more and more school graduates are released from schools. If looking at relations between education levels and unemployment, it appears that the higher the educational level amongst youth, the higher the probability of being unemployed.

For the ILO, the promotion of decent work for young people is a central concern. We believe that integrated approaches are needed in view of the multidimensional nature of the challenges facing youth and a strong appeal should be made for fundamental change in approaches for realizing social justice.

To address the Youth Employment Crisis, the International Labour Conference and its 185 member countries agreed on a resolution, a ‘call for Action” in 2012 in Geneva.

This Call for Action specifically addresses the way forward with the following recommendations:
  1. Designing Employment and economic policies that place jobs first
  2. Enhancing Education, Training & Skills and facilitating the school-to-work transition
  3. Promoting Labour Market Policies
  4. Encouraging Entrepreneurship and self-employment
  5. Enhancing the rights for young people
  6. Confirming ILO action – with advocacy, technical cooperation and knowledge
Ladies and gentlemen, Fiji ratified the ILO Convention No. 122 on Employment Policy, 1964 in 2010. The Convention calls on countries to ‘declare and pursue, as a major goal, an active policy designed to promote full, productive and freely chosen employment’ (Article 1). As a signatory to C122, Fiji committed itself to developing and implementing a National Employment Policy (NEP) and this evening, we are gathered here to witness the launch of this Policy.

The ILO has partnered with the Ministry of Employment Productivity and Industrial Relations (MEPIR) since the commencement of the drafting of the Employment Policy bringing to the table technical expertise and funding under a joint collaboration with the ADB.

The tripartite partners serving on the National Employment Centre Board worked very hard to discuss and agree to the final draft NEP and also take the final draft NEP out for consultations all over Fiji.

The Fiji Government has committed to the 2030 global sustainable development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 8 of the 17 SDGs refers to the need for governments and other key parties to promote ‘inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all’.

I note with appreciation the commitment made within the NEP that the Government’s vision is to promote “Decent Work and Employment Growth”, The NEP launched today states Fiji’s employment objectives and ten policy priorities. All of these are in line with Decent Work principles and the SDGs, and will improve the growth and quality of employment in Fiji and contribute towards Fiji’s overall Decent Work and Employment Growth and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The emphasis on youth unemployment issue in the NEP is also commendable and timely, given the world economic/financial crisis and climate change that have had an adverse impact on political stability and consequences for young people transiting from school-to-work. The Pacific, particularly, faces the impact of climate induced disaster on the labour market. TC Winston impact on Fiji was equivalent to one third of its GDP, in terms of loss of employment & livelihoods.

Ladies and gentlemen, Fiji has many good practices to replicate and experience of social and economic policies to draw upon. This launching event marks another milestone in Fiji’s development history. Let me also congratulate the Ministry on launching the Customer Service Centre in Suva today, which is a part of the NEP implementation plan.  I would also like to say that the launch of the NEP is only the starting point of a long journey ahead and we have to move this policy into practice. I am confident that with support from all stakeholders and strong partnerships, Fiji will pursue implementing this policy with commitment and zeal. Let me conclude by pledging ILO’s full support and commitment to the implementation of this important Policy.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you sincerely for your attention!