A joint EU-ILO project strengthens trade and sectoral policies for more and better decent jobs

News | 02 October 2019

As millions of people enter the labour markets each year, job creation is becoming an increasingly important political priority, especially in developing economies. The joint EU-ILO STRENGTHEN project has helped these countries address this challenge through sectoral and trade policies that can be complementary to employment policies, and programmes that create more opportunities for Decent Work and productive employment.

STRENGTHEN is a joint project of the European Union (EU) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) on “Strengthening the Impact on Employment of Sector and Trade Policies”. It was launched in October of 2014 and partnered with nine developing countries: Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Morocco, Myanmar, Philippines and Rwanda.

The project focused on a wide range of export-oriented, construction and infrastructure sectors including automobiles, textiles, coconut, cashew, cocoa, yams, roots and tubers, tea, coffee, roads, social housing, public infrastructure investment, pyrethrum, flowers and manioc.

The EU supported the project through its thematic programme “Investing in People”, under the European Commission’s Agenda for Change that identifies priority areas for achieving inclusive growth such as agriculture and rural development, energy, and private sector development.

STRENGTHEN has helped developing countries address employment challenges through a sectoral and trade lens. Implemented by the ILO, it supported its partners in assembling global and country-level knowledge and strengthening the positive impact of trade and sectoral policies on employment.

The goal was to develop country-level capacity for conducting employment impact assessments in different economic sectors and set up structures with relevant ministries, export promotion agencies and development boards. It also emphasized social dialogue among ILO constituents and worked with development practitioners, international and local researchers, statistical institutions and other relevant stakeholders at the country level.

The project had two components that focused on productive sectors and trade. The sector component focused on infrastructure, agriculture and energy. Each has the potential for job creation as well as its own characteristics of what types of jobs are created.

The trade component helped developing countries harness international trade for the creation and upgrading of employment. It generated knowledge through studies on the linkages between trade and employment in STRENGTHEN’s partner countries. These studies fed into policy discussions revolving around the conditions that developing countries should fulfil in order to reap the employment benefits of international trade. These conditions include employment-oriented trade and sectoral policies, minimum productive capacities, a suitably skilled labour force and strong social protection systems.

An important element of the project was promoting collaboration between key ministries—some of which would not normally prioritize job creation—and sectors, and making job creation the central focus of coordinated action. Though it is concluding its work, it has created an awareness and a drive to mainstream job creation as a key objective in trade and sectoral policies. With the right mix of political will and policies, STRENGTHEN will hopefully continue helping developing countries achieve full and productive employment.