Speaking at the opening session of the two-day meeting, hosted by Argentina, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said that that it had been a dramatic 18 months since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis.
Ryder stressed that while there are signs of economic recovery in the region, governments must reflect on the direction of employment recovery.
Many of the jobs lost have yet to be recovered, and there is a high regional unemployment rate of 11 per cent."Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General
According to indicators from a group of countries in the region, “about 70 per cent of the jobs recovered from mid-2020 to the first quarter of 2021 consisted of informal occupations,” Ryder said. “This is a worrying statistic,” he added.
The ILO Director-General participated in the opening of the meeting – which was held virtually for the first time – together with the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, Barbados Labour Minister, Colin Jordan and Argentina Labour Minister, Claudio Moroni.
“The pandemic has brought the world of work to its knees. It has led to unemployment, underemployment and inactivity, with a sharp increase in poverty and informality, and a widening of inequalities around the world,” Ryder said. The crisis “has brutally exposed inequalities and vulnerabilities.”
Against this backdrop, the goal should be to move towards “a recovery that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient. It is not an easy task, but it is not impossible either.”
The pandemic has led to unemployment, underemployment and inactivity, with a sharp increase in poverty and informality, and a widening of inequalities around the world."Guy Ryder
Ryder stressed that in the search for solutions, it is important to address “the synergy that must exist between labour and economic, financial and environmental policies, if we are to achieve socio-economic recovery with decent work and people-centred sustainable enterprises.”
He also stressed that “the renewal and adaptation of labour ministries and their institutions, such as labour inspection, to the new realities is key.” He considered it important that the issue of social dialogue has a prominent place on the agenda of the Inter-American meeting.
“It is not the easiest of paths, but without broad, inclusive, democratic and representative social dialogue, it will be very difficult to find consensual and effective solutions to the challenges posed by this pandemic.”
The meeting is ministerial in nature and its deliberations include two advisory bodies: the Trade Union Technical Advisory Council (COSATE), which brings together workers’ representatives, and the Business Commission for Technical Advice on Labour Affairs (CEATAL), which brings together employers’ representatives.
The Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labour is considered a primary forum for discussion and policy decisions on priorities and actions to be taken on labour issues in the region. It was initiated more than 50 years ago and is the oldest sectoral conference of the OAS.