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Arab Labour Conference

Ryder: Arab region must seize opportunity for reform

ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, highlighted the need for strengthened social dialogue, social protection measures and efforts to tackle youth unemployment in Arab countries, at the opening of the Arab Labour Conference in Algeria.

News | 15 April 2013
Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General
ALGIERS (ILO News) – ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, has called for policy reforms in the Arab region to strengthen social dialogue, tackle soaring youth unemployment, promote social protection and foster the rights of workers and employers to freely organize themselves.

“What is needed is a comprehensive vision for sustainable economic and social development” that “reaches beyond political structures into social and economic spheres,” Ryder said, during opening remarks to the Arab Labour Conference in Algiers.

He urged Arab countries to “tap into the regions youth potential,” and develop “smart education and skills’ policies in line with market needs.”

“Targeting women’s rights must be a priority. Despite unprecedented achievements in education, this region still has the lowest female participation rates in the labour market,” Ryder added.

What is needed is a comprehensive vision for sustainable economic and social development."
Guy Ryder
Countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have some of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world, with latest ILO estimates putting the regional figure at over 26 per cent for 2012.

Many of those with jobs, particularly those working in the informal economy, lack access to basic social security guarantees such as healthcare and income security.

Calling for the establishment of a social protection floor in the region, Ryder said, “social security systems that address both long and short-term needs can significantly reduce poverty and contribute to social, economic and political stability.”

He emphasized the need for strategies appropriate to each national context and referred to the Algerian Social and Economic Pact and the Tunisian Social Contract , as “promising examples of consolidating social progress.”

Ryder also acknowledged the ILO’s “special responsibility to working people in the occupied Palestinian territory,” and noted last month’s Arab Summit affirmation of the centrality of the Palestinian issue.

He called for stronger collaboration between the ILO and the Arab Labour Organization (ALO) and said he hoped “that the partnership will expand and consolidate efforts between the two organizations and build processes that allow governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations to effectively engage in the promotion of Decent Work and Social Justice for all.”

The two-day Arab Labour Conference brings together delegates from 22 Arab countries across the Middle East and North Africa, to discuss labour issues and policy responses.