48th Arab Labour Conference

ILO Director-General’s address to the Arab Labour Conference 2022

In a recorded video address, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder addresses Arab governments, workers and employers meeting in Cairo, Egypt, with a call to pursue with the ILO a shared mission of promoting social justice.

Statement | 18 September 2022
Director-General al Mutairi,
Ministers and other representatives of Governments
Employers’ and Workers’ Representatives
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to speak to you today and to convey to the 48th session of the Arab Labour conference the greetings of the ILO.

Your conference convenes as multiple crises are unfolding across the world, and at a time of great political, economic and social uncertainty.

No country or region has been spared the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments, workers and enterprises, women and men, young people everywhere continue to have to deal with the fallout. And the pandemic itself is not yet over.

On top of this, we are having to cope with other crises: Last year’s fragile, uneven labour market recovery appears to have gone into reverse in much of the world, jeopardizing our efforts to build forward better from the pandemic. And now war and conflicts are tearing countries and societies apart and undermining global security. And increasingly, the vulnerability of the planet itself is becoming evident as climate change takes its toll.

A human-centred recovery that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient, as agreed at the International Labour Conference last year, is therefore more urgent than ever. The major interrelated challenges we face call for coherent action and international solidarity.

Dear Friends, against this sombre background, addressing the digital economy and employment, the theme of your conference, is pertinent and timely. The digital economy is indeed transforming the world of work, and this has been accelerated by the reaction to the COVID pandemic. The question is whether these transformations will be for better or for worse.

The proliferation of digital platforms has the potential to provide women and men, people with disabilities, young people and migrant workers, with new income-generating opportunities. Businesses are also benefiting from access to a global and local workforces to improve efficiency, enhance productivity and to gain a wider market reach.

So, with these benefits in mind, many governments in your countries are investing in digital infrastructure and digital skills. However, the reality is that the digital economy and digital platforms also pose challenges in terms of fair competition among enterprises and achieving the types of employment and social protection, pay and conditions that are consistent with decent work and international labour standards.

That means that it is essential to understand better the transformations which are taking place so that we can shape and guide them effectively.

The ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook, published earlier this year, aimed to deepen our knowledge in this area. It found that there has been a fivefold increase in the number of digital labour platforms in the last decade, but with a growing digital divide between different parts of the world.

The report also provided information on actions taken by governments to address related working conditions issues. And one thing is clear: what is unacceptable in the analogue world of work should also be unacceptable in the digital one.

As always there is no inevitability about all of this. We need to decide on the outcomes that we want in the digital world and then on the policies that will produce them. You have an opportunity at this conference to help shape coordinated national and regional policies and strategies to ensure that digital labour platforms provide decent work opportunities whilst also fostering growth and development.

Dear friends, I join you for the last time as Director General of the International Labour Organization. And I want to thank you all most sincerely for the support and the friendship that you have extended to me and to the ILO over the many years. The ILO highly values its strategic partnership with Arab governments and social partners, as well as with other international organizations and institutions.

We have been committed to supporting your efforts to achieve a successful transition towards decent work for everybody in the Arab region. And I must refer here to the special responsibility that the ILO has towards the working people of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Your young population, Arab youth, are a great asset, a source of hope as you strive for a better future. The challenge ahead will be to harness the energy, that talent and creativity, to realize the aspirations of all your people for decent jobs and decent lives and stable and peaceful societies.

The ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, adopted by the International Labour Conference in 2019, provides a strong foundation for this task of building an inclusive, human centred approach to the future of work in the Arab region and globally.

Director General, I cannot conclude without expressing my appreciation for the cooperation which the ILO has enjoyed with the Arab Labour Organization under your leadership. Thank you for your personal commitment to this cooperation. I believe that the relationship and cooperation between our organizations provides us with real opportunities, pursuing together a shared mission of promoting social justice. I'm confident that this partnership will further deepen under the leadership of my successor Mr. Gilberto Houngbo.

And I call on you, the ILO's Arab constituents, to be true leaders in shaping a world where women and men can work in freedom with equity, dignity and justice for all.

Thank you, and I wish you all success.