Opening Address to the Knowledge Development Workshop: Promoting Decent Work in Global Production Systems in Asia and the Pacific

by Mr Shinichi Hasegawa, Regional Director of ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Statement | Bangkok | 30 November 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, I would like to welcome you all to Bangkok for this knowledge development workshop. This workshop is organized jointly by the Economic and Social Analysis Unit at the Regional Office, and the Policy Integration Department in Geneva.

As our world becomes increasingly globalized, cross-border flows of goods, funds, jobs and people have accelerated dramatically. This is creating new economic and social patterns, regionally and globally. Countries and businesses are more closely connected than ever before by complex intra- and inter-firm production and distribution networks. These are also known as Global Production Systems or GPS.

GPS are now a significant source of employment for both developed and developing countries. They impact upon labour markets in a variety of ways. They present workers and employers with both new opportunities and new challenges in reaching the goal of decent work for all. Participation in GPS has become the key to attracting investment, increasing technological capability, building industrial capacity and boosting economic growth.

But, at the same time, regulation of these new production systems is weak. There is debate over whether this global market competition is creating a “race to the bottom” in labour and other standards.

Our task today is to improve our understanding of the evolution and functioning of GPS, and the way it may affect the ILO’s work and goals.

Promoting decent work in GPS is one way in which the ILO could make an important contribution towards the goal of fairer globalization. Different sections of the ILO already do a lot of valuable work on different aspects of GPS. With our mandate, experience and technical resources we are well-placed to make a major contribution. However, there is not yet an overall ILO position on how countries can address the challenges and opportunities GPS creates.

The issue is both conceptual and operational. A significant amount of research exists on the economic dimensions of upgrading GPS. There is also some work on its social implications. However, we are concerned about how we can integrate these two tracks of research.

This workshop is designed to help us better understand how GPS affects the quantity and quality of work. Its aim is to develop an action and policy-oriented research agenda that is based on the operational work of the ILO. In this respect, I am especially greatful that some of the most knowledgeable experts in GPS were able to join us to help achieve this goal. They are professor Barrientos, professor Seidman, Dr. Liu, Dr. Palit, professor Poon and professor Wright.

To this end, I would like to ask you to focus your thoughts on three things:
- first, what the key research questions should be,
- second, what the main policy issues are,
- and third, the actions we should take.

We also wish to take this occasion to strengthen our partnerships with other academic and research institutions, and other organizations with the same interests. In connection to this, I am glad to see that the member research institutes of the Japan Institute of Labour Policy and Training project were able to take part in this event. I hope this workshop will provide a good technical foundation for your own meeting, which is scheduled right after this two days workshop on December 2. I would also like to thank the UN ESCAP for their participation, and look forward to future collaboration in this field of work.

May I take this opportunity to thank you again for your participation. I hope you will be able to actively share your experiences and knowledge in the discussions.

I wish you all every success. Thank you.