Gerry Rodgers

Interview for the Oral Archives of the ILO Century Project by Regina Monticone

Gerald B. Rodgers was born on 20 November 1946 in London. He has served the International Labour Organization for 36 years in various roles which have focused on poverty, inequality, labour, human resources and employment in low and medium-income countries, in particular in South and Southeast Asia and in Latin America. He has also worked on labour market issues in industrialized countries, and managed broad-based technical support to ILO constituents on social policy issues in Latin America. Mr Rodgers began his career as a development economist in the role of Research Officer at the Population and Employment Research Programme in 1972 and later was responsible for research programmes at the Employment and Development Department; Head of research programmes at the International Institute for Labour Studies (IILS); Head of the Training Policies and Systems Branch at the Employment Department; and Director of the Multidisciplinary Technical Team in Santiago de Chile. In 1998 Gerry Rodgers became Technical Adviser at the Office of the Director-General and a member of the Director-General’s Transition Team (1998−1999). While Director of the Policy Integration Department, in 2002 he was appointed Technical Director of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization (WCSDG). In 2005 Mr Rodgers was appointed Director of the IILS, where he initiated the Century Project before becoming Senior Adviser at the Office of the Director-General. Since his retirement in 2008 he has been a Visiting Professor at the Institute for Human Development in New Delhi.

Mr Rodgers has written many books, monographs and articles, and is a co-author of The ILO and the quest for social justice, 1919-2009, which marked the beginning of the institutional publications series of the ILO Century Project.

1965−1968 − B.A. (Hons). Mathematics, Part I; Economics, Part II. Trinity College, Cambridge University.
1968−1972 − D.Phil. in Economic Development, University of Sussex. Thesis on rural poverty in India.

Having concluded his studies in economic development and concentrated his PhD thesis on employment issues as a means to poverty reduction, Gerry Rodgers was drawn to the newly founded World Employment Programme (WEP) at the ILO in the 1970s. This was the beginning of his “rather extraordinarily fortunate” career with the Organization. Mr Rodgers discusses the unique leadership of Louis Emmerij and the non-standard structure of WEP, which allowed for research excellence and innovative endeavours.

In this interview Mr Rodgers discusses an array of topics. He talks about the challenges of enforcing integration in an organization such as the ILO. He points to the first Decent Work Pilot Programme as a successful example of an inter-departmental cooperation. As Technical Director of the WCSDG, Gerry Rodgers describes its workings and its credibility with different audiences and the responses triggered by its Report. He recalls the WCSDG as having a huge impact, which showed that it was possible to build a common perspective across incredibly diverse interests. In response to the lawyers versus economists and development experts versus labour specialists debates, Gerry Rodgers states that the solution lies in building common reference points from which people may work together as an integrated team. He then looks at how representative the ILO is, arguing that the Organization captures a fairly wide range of economic structures beyond the Member States. Gerry Rodgers shares insights from his time on former DG Juan Somavía’s Transition Team, taking part in formulating the Decent Work concept and coining the eponymous term. He speaks about the limitations and relativism of universal definitions of concepts such as poverty and social exclusion. He stresses the importance of proper hiring criteria at the ILO, recalls the origins of the Century Project in 2006 and proposes ideas about the Organization’s centenary in 2019.

Key words
1976 World Employment Conference; 1995 World Summit for Social Development; 1998 ILO transition team; 1999 anti-globalization demonstrations, Seattle; 2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization; Asian Regional Team for Employment Promotion (ARTEP); Comunidade Solidaria programme, Brazil; Decent Work Agenda (DWA); Decent Work concept;
Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP); Decent Work Forums; Decent Work Pilot Programme (DWPP); Decent Work Report; development studies; Global Employment Agenda (GEA); Global Jobs Pact; Human Development Report (HDR); ILO Century Project; ILO International Institute for Labour Studies (IILS); ILO Policy Integration Department; ILO Strategic Programming and Management Department (PROGRAM); Institute of Development Studies (IDS); inter-agency partnerships; Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); International Organisation of Employers (IOE); Minimum Wage; Multidisciplinary Technical Team, Santiago de Chile; Nobel Prize for Economics; policy coherence; population and employment, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); poverty reduction; precarious jobs; research; quantitative models of developing countries: the Philippines, Brazil, Kenya and Yugoslavia; Self-Employed Women's Association of India (SEWA); Social Protection Floor (SPF); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); workers; World Bank; World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization (WCSDG); World Employment Programme (WEP); Youth Employment Network (YEN).

Names mentioned
Amato, Giuliano; Arrate, Jorge; Bachelet, Michelle; Barcia, Paulo; Becci, Remo; Blanchard, Francis;
Cardoso, Fernando Henrique; Cardoso, Ruth; Davis, Susan; de Soto, Hernando; Elmiger, Jean Jacques; Emmerij, Louis; Galenson, Walter; Ghai, Dharam; Gopinath, Padmanabha; Griffin, Keith; Hansenne, Michel; Henriques, Michael; Herfkens, Eveline; Hopkins, Michael; Jenks, Clarence Wilfred; Jolly, Richard; Jose, A.V.; Lee, Eddy; Lee, Sangheon; Lim, Lin; Maul, Daniel; Mendez, Jorge; Mirrlees, James Alexander; Morse, David; Mouly, Jean; Nieto, Joaquín; Oppong, Christine; Phelan, Edward; Pinochet, Augusto; Pursey, Stephen; Ryder, Guy; Seers, Dudley; Sengenberger, Werner; Shaheed, Zafar; Simon, Manuel; Singer, Hans; Somavía, Juan; Stiglitz, Joseph; Swepston, Lee; Thomas, Albert; Tokman, Víctor; Tomei, Manuela; Torres, Raymond; Traoré, Aminata; Trebilcock, Anne; Turvey, Ralph; Van Daele, Jasmien; Wolfensohn, James David.

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