ADDIS ABABA (ILO News) – Faced with a continental challenge of growth that is failing to create enough better quality jobs to stop rising unemployment and an increasing number of people living in poverty, top worker, employer and government representatives of the ILO's African member States today adopted a sweeping new Decent Work Agenda in Africa 2007-15 designed to stimulate the creation of millions of decent jobs and improve the lives of the Continent's working poor.
"The Agenda is an excellent combination of policy directions and tools for implementation", said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia in closing remarks to the International Labour Organization's XIth African Regional Meeting. "The targets we adopted are ambitious but achievable. This is Africa deciding where it wants to go and how to get there. It is based on partnership and dialogue between Africa's employers, workers and governments and with our counterpart agencies in the multilateral system."
The new initiative, called "Decent Work Agenda in Africa 2007-15" was adopted following four days of intense discussion by some 500 delegates at the ILO meeting who heard urgent calls for development from three heads of State and Government. The Agenda commits the ILO's tripartite constituency to the development of Decent Work Country Programmes as the mechanism for mainstreaming policies for more and better jobs into national development strategies.
Among its key objectives is an agreement to forge strong new links between the ILO and its African member States as well as international organizations such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to promote employment-intensive growth.
UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis cited the growing collaboration between his Organization and the ILO as an example of the new effort by international organizations to "deliver as one" for the benefit of all. In an indication of how this will work, he called for poverty reduction strategies that "fully integrate the employment dimension and said that "Decent Work is at the heart of development and has to be also at the heart of the United Nations various work on development".
Delegates called on the ILO to develop a significant programme of support for the Agenda requiring a strengthening of institutions from the local to the continental level to promote the goal of full and productive employment and decent work for all.
The final statement also urged the ILO to work with its African and international partners to develop a comprehensive approach focussing on improving governance of labour markets and strengthening the capacity of labour administrations and the social partners.
The meeting endorsed a number of targets for the ILO's African member States to be achieved by 2015, including:
- the creation of sufficient decent jobs to absorb new labour market entrants and reduce by half the numbers of working poor;
- integrated strategies for sustainable enterprise development, with a special focus on women entrepreneurs, including the registration of at least half of all enterprises operating informally;
- adopting policies and programmes leading to a significant reduction in the current youth employment rate for Africa of nearly 20 per cent;
- ensuring that half of Africa's workforce has obtained new or improved skills;
- incorporating local economic development and employment-intensive investment approaches in all reconstruction and recovery programmes, and more particularly building effective and accountable institutions for the world of work and for economic and social governance in general;
- developing programmes for the improvement of working conditions, including regulations on hours of work and minimum pay, the reduction of occupational accidents and diseases, and a progressive increase in the number of labour inspectors in relation to workers;
- upgrading the informal economy and extending protection to informal economy workers;
- ensuring that migrant workers have regular, authorized status and are fully protected by the labour legislation of the host country.
What's more, the targets ask all African countries to introduce or extend a basic social security package; to have national HIV/AIDS strategies to ensure the workplace contributes to the overall objective of achieving universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support; establish or further develop tripartite social dialogue institutions; adopt legislation to guarantee the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining; ratify, implement and respect fundamental principles and rights at work; prepare national action plans for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour and the eradication of forced labour by 2015; have anti-discrimination legislation in place and promote equality of opportunity and treatment in respect of employment and occupation; and generate basic annual data on the size and composition of the labour force.
The Meeting also calls on the ILO to work with governments, employers and workers to encourage all Member States in Africa to have Decent Work Country Programmes by the end of 2009. It also endorsed an African Decent Work Policy Portfolio to be used in the national discussions on the Country Programmes. The meeting further calls on the ILO to develop partnerships with other international agencies making full use of the Toolkit on mainstreaming Employment and Decent Work recently endorsed by the UN Secretary General's Chief Executives Board and participating in the "One UN" pilot country initiative.
In their conclusions, delegates also welcomed the call for a Second Social Partners Forum in 2008 to contribute to the promotion of governance as a means for effective and fair management of states and enterprises. They also supported the establishment of a Regional Employment Forum to share and develop best practice solutions to Africa's employment challenges.