International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Leave no one behind: Working to end poverty

Statement by Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Statement | 17 October 2014
The harsh reality is that some 375 million working women and men are not able to earn enough to keep themselves and their families above the $1.25 a day extreme poverty line. That is around one in eight of the employed population of the developing world where more than a quarter of working women and men live with their families on $2 a day or less.

One of the lessons from the drive to implement the Millenium Development Goals is that full and productive employment and decent work for all is both an objective and a means of achieving sustainable development with social inclusion and greater equity.

There has been a substantial reduction in working poverty by comparison with the early 2000s. However, progress has slowed as a result of the global financial crisis and weak and uneven recovery. In 2013, the number of workers in extreme poverty declined by only 2.7 per cent globally, one of the lowest rates of reduction over the past decade. And prospects are not improving. A prolonged period of low growth would be a disastrous start to the renewed global drive for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty.

Looking ahead, the global workforce is growing at around 42.6 million per year, mainly in the developing world. But only 40 million are finding work and only half of these are finding wage employment. With slow growth the numbers of unemployed and those only able to get informal work and at risk of poverty will continue to rise. In the period up to 2030, the world will need to generate around 600 million decent jobs to keep up with the growth of the labour force, eliminate extreme poverty, reduce unemployment, increase female participation and lift the living standards of the bottom 40 per cent.

It is not surprising that “Better job opportunities” was among the top three priorities identified by the 5 million people from 194 countries who participated in the UN-sponsored My World 2015 global survey.

As preparations for a post-2015 sustainable development framework speed up, recognition that decent work needs to be a central feature of a transformative agenda is growing. The ILO commends the efforts of the UN’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals which has proposed that “promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all” should be one of the new set of goals. The Group has also included under its suggested goal of poverty eradication the target of “implementing nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable.”

As we come together to recommit ourselves to the eradication of poverty, there is no reason for complacency. Poverty is not yet defeated. Far too many are being left behind. But the international community is preparing for a renewed drive and the ILO intends to be in the vanguard.