ILC Radio Round-up

Day 2: A look at the Committee on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

With two-thirds of the world’s workers employed in SMEs, policies to bolster their success is an ILC priority.

Audio | 02 June 2015

On day two of the International Labour Conference, we take a look at the Committee on Small and Medium-sized enterprises and decent and productive employment creation. It’s one of the four committees meeting throughout the 13-day-conference, which is sometimes called an international parliament of labour.

This annual conference, run by the International Labour Organization, brings together governments', workers' and employer's delegates of the ILO’s 185 member States.

The conference establishes and adopts international labour standards. It’s a forum for delegates to talk about key social and labour questions.

So why is the ILC and its committees this year looking at how small and medium sized enterprises, or so called SMEs, fit into the discussion of key social and labour questions? Well, it’s all about their size and influence on labour markets, says Zornitsa Roussinova, chair of the committee, who is also Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Republic of Bulgaria:

“Small and medium-sized enterprises are very important in the world of work because due to the evidence report by ILO for this conference we recognize that approximately two thirds of the employed people all over the world work in small and medium-sized enterprises.”

So chances are, you or people you know work for an SME.

In the EU, ILO research shows that 85 percent of new jobs are located in SMEs. However, these smaller businesses often face an uphill battle in staying afloat, let alone becoming profitable.

The research shows the top three constraints to SMEs’ success throughout the world are problems with getting financing, access to electricity and issues related to informality. In other words, operating in the grey economy where there is no taxation nor government monitoring -- so workers in the grey economy often lack coverage for social protections like unemployment insurance.

As Roussinova explains, training is a key component for supporting SMEs:

“All ways and policies that governments can implement to improve the access to small and medium-sized enterprises to financing, to provide them support on training—the entrepreneurs--and training the staff how to better manage the companies, is one of the key policies that is discussed within the committee.”

Over the next few days, the committee - comprised of eight government, eight worker and eight employer representatives - will move from a general discussion through a draft and amendments and finally to its conclusions to be presented to the plenary on June 12.

And along the way, there will be hot debates, says the chair:

“It’s a really hot debate because some of the issues are quite different from country to country and from the perspective of the employers and the workers. What we want to achieve is to have consensus between all governments and all social partners on what are the key issues and conclusions based on the evidence provided by ILO.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow at the ILC, this committee will continue to do its vital work alongside other committees meeting to discuss issues ranging from social protection to informality.

Reporting for the ILO at the Palais de Nations in Geneva, this is Carla Drysdale.