Virtual Launch of the 2020 Global Deal Flagship Report

Social dialogue can help create effective skills development and lifelong learning policies

Through social dialogue, the actors in the labour market – employers, workers, and governments – can play an essential role in mitigating the impact of the pandemic on education and training, says the ILO Director-General Guy Ryder at the Virtual Launch of the 2020 Global Deal Flagship Report ‘Social Dialogue, Skills, and COVID-19'.

Declaración | 20 de octubre de 2020

Thanks very much, Alex.

My greetings also to Minister Hallberg, and Secretary-General Gurria.

It is a real pleasure to be here for the launch of this very important Flagship Report. If there is one key message in the Flagship Report it is that, in these difficult times, social dialogue has never been more important.

It helps us build resilience, it helps us find ways forward from the crisis, and when tough decisions need to be taken it helps us find legitimate, accepted outcomes.

Colleagues, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused enormous pain worldwide. More than a million people have already lost their lives. Millions have lost their livelihoods and their incomes. And many more fear they may catch the virus if they go to work.

I’d like to focus in on one sector, one on the minds of many Global Deal members, the garment industry,

Lockdowns and other measures have resulted in widespread retail and factory closures, furloughs and layoffs. The effects have rippled all along global value chains. Orders have been cancelled. Suppliers, brands and retailers have often been unable to pay workers or keep them on.

Situations like this just beg us to apply social dialogue.

Other sectors have experienced the same, or worse.

In the aggregate, we at the ILO estimate that in the second quarter of 2020 alone, the equivalent of 495 million full-time jobs were lost, globally.

That's an overwhelming figure. And unfortunately, we have to accept that the aftermath and the effects on the labour market are going to be with us for some considerable time.

What has to be seen is that this terrible impact is falling disproportionately on those least able to cope, those we classify as ‘most vulnerable’ in the world of work. For example, women workers, young people, those with disabilities, indigenous communities, migrant workers.

And this is genuinely a global crisis. No regions, no countries are immune. For example, in the Latin America and the Caribbean region alone, the equivalent of 80 million jobs have been lost.

In Africa the estimate is 60 million.

In Asia and the Pacific, no less than 265 million.

So I think we are all aware that we need to respond globally as well. And if we are to do so effectively we will need multifaceted, comprehensive responses. This means delivering the right health, economic, employment and social policies, in combination and at the right time.

And this brings me back to social dialogue, and to the Global Deal.

This second Global Deal Flagship Report focuses on the role social dialogue can play in promoting lifelong learning and skills development in recovery from the crisis.

It does so because one of the most important elements in building a better future of work is and will be investment in workers.

Here is one of the dilemmas we face immediately. We know the impact of the pandemic has been the disruption of education and training, in all its forms, from schools and universities, to workplace training. Some courses have migrated online; many have not been able to. And those without access risk becoming even further behind than they have ever been.

So what we need is a human-centred approach to the world of work. This is also the message at the heart of the ILO’s Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, adopted by the ILO’s Centenary conference last year.

And I’ll be proposing such a human-centred global initiative for recovery to our Governing Body, in two weeks’ time.

So the question has to be, which skills should people learn? How do they keep them fresh? And how can they be supported?

The answer brings us back to social dialogue. Who knows better about skills than the actors in the labour market – employers, workers, and government.

The Flagship Report gives some great examples of how social dialogue can help create effective skills development and lifelong learning policies. For example:

In South Africa, the government and social partners have come together to develop a National Skills Accord.

In Uruguay there is a national Institute for Employment and Vocational Training. This manages a Labour Reconversion Fund, and has sectoral committees.

And in Spain, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government and the social partners have developed new training programmes, under the “Digitise Yourself” framework.

If you put it all together, we need to anticipate skills needs and put in place life-long learning processes, ensure accessibility to all, and open it up, to help address the inequalities in our societies.

The Flagship Report also emphasizes the important role of ILO standards. I could mention ILO Convention No. 142, on Human Resources Development. Tools like these help to create an enabling environment for social dialogue. Ultimately, that can help build our economies back better, and faster.

That’s really what I take home from this report. It is a tremendously important contribution, and we need to integrate it fully into the tasks we must all turn our hands to now, as part of building back better.

Thank you.