G7 Labour and Employment Ministers Meeting

Remarks to G7 Opening Session by the ILO Director-General Guy Ryder

Statement | Wolfsburg, Germany, 24 May 2022 | 24 May 2022
Minister Heil, Ministers, Representatives,

Thank you, Hubertus for your hospitality, and for the leadership you and Germany have provided to the G7 this year.

There is something profoundly reassuring about being here in Wolfsburg.

Reassuring because after such a long time, we can meet physically together again, and talk to one another; and that is important.

Reassuring as we meet in quite literally in the shadow of one of the industrial giants, Volkswagen - a company mixing commercial success with good industrial relations practices.

Reassuring as we share the values of the democracies the G7 represents, as stated in the Ministerial Declaration we will adopt today, and as expressed in the presentations being made here by the G7 social partners.

This meeting then provides a safe place in what is frankly a very unsafe world.

If we look a little further afield the context is anything but reassuring.

And the world is facing extraordinary challenges, extending to the world of work.

Even if we were meeting in a year with no COVID-19 pandemic, and no war in Ukraine, we would still have needed to talk urgently. But with COVID, with the war, this becomes a moment of immediate crisis.

It is very telling that you have put these three Ds at the centre of your agenda, and that you are looking in particular at just transition challenges.

When the ILO celebrated its centenary three years ago, demographics, digitalization and decarbonization were also the main challenges. But they are now presenting themselves in more immediate and urgent form.

To illustrate that urgency, let me provide some highlights of the ILO Monitor on the world of work that we released yesterday.

We have been tracking the impact of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic two years ago. In 2020, we found that its impact on the world of work was four times the degree of damage done by the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.

There was then some degree of bounce back in the latter part of 2021.

But the bad news in our Monitor was that this has now gone into reverse. The Monitor reports that the number of hours worked in the world fell in the first quarter of 2022 and remains 3.8 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.

That’s equivalent to a loss of 112 million full-time jobs around the world. We have a major deficit; and this has got much worse since the figures we published in January 2022.

The medium term prospects are unfortunately for further deterioration in our labour markets. The ILO’s latest projection for the second quarter of 2022 is that the level of hours worked will be 4.2 per cent below the pre-pandemic level. This is equivalent to a deficit of 123 million full-time jobs.

Turning to labour income in the world - this has recovered and even exceeded its pre-pandemic levels.

But this is very uneven. 60% of the world’s population live in countries where the level of labour incomes remains below pre-pandemic levels.

We are seeing a great divergence in the world economy. While the industrialized countries have bounced back, others face a much more uncertain trajectory.

In these circumstances, the issues before us today are of the utmost importance. I won’t go into them in detail now as they are on the agenda we will be working through today.

But we now have the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine on top of everything else.

The ILO estimates that 4.8 million jobs have been lost so far in Ukraine itself. If there is further military escalation, job losses could increase to 7 million.

And more than 6 million people have fled Ukraine for neighbouring countries - where they have been able to benefit from the temporary protection measures of the European Union.

The situation is also affecting other regions, as in Uzbekistan where the situation of returning migrant workers from Russia is having a very negative impact on a depressed area of the global labour market.

The UN has traced 3 transmission belts through which the war in Ukraine is causing global crisis.

The first is the food crisis. The overall food price index is up about 37% on pre-war levels, to levels not previously reached. This places many countries under severe threat of food insecurity.

The second crisis is the transmission belt through energy and fuel. We are all familiar with the issues concerned.

And the third crisis is the financial crisis. 60% of developing countries are in a situation of debt distress - the IMF has been giving us warning signals about that impact.

So we face extremely worrying prospects.


Reverting to the “3 Ds”, I would like to ask the G7 to think about what these look like from a developing country perspective.

The developing world does not have the same prospects from digitalization. A recent survey of the poorest countries in the world revealed that the major reason people did not use the internet was that they did not know what it was.

With regard to decarbonization, the developing world thinks they are paying the price of a crisis they did not cause.

And the demographics problems in the south are exactly the opposite of those we are concerned with at this G7 meeting.

My last comment is that a very important part of our conclusions today is the decision to institutionalize and make permanent the labour and employment track in the G7. At a time when international cooperation is becoming increasingly difficult, this is particularly important. I hope it will lead the G7 to develop further proposals in the future to address the urgent issues we face.


It is often said that in times of crisis, we need to look for opportunities. But how many people can see opportunities in the crises we face today?
Our meeting needs to be based on understanding and accepting the realities people face today, and giving substance to those opportunities on the basis of those realities, whether it is in the green, the digital or the care economies.

If we can do that, this meeting can achieve something very important.

Thank you.