The International Forum on Decent Work organized last week by Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union with the European Commission and the International Labour Office looked at how efforts to promote the Decent Work Agenda made over the last decade have been maintained through the recent crisis and recovery period. The Forum also tried to identify how the European Union could develop the external dimension of its employment and social policies in the years ahead with a view to enhancing decent work on a global scale.
Participating experts at the Forum took an integrated approach to decent work principles and identified ways to incorporate them in long-term policies for the European governments. Particular focus was given to work opportunities for young people, the current challenges for low-carbon economy and its impact on jobs and ways in which trade agreements, combined with labour provisions could contribute to promoting decent work globally.
In his keynote address, Raymond Torres, director of the International Institute for Labour Studies at the ILO headquarters in Geneva, said that social measures, such as fair pay for workers and financial support for the unemployed are actually protecting jobs and buttressing economic recovery worldwide.
Torres said that both developed and developing countries are seeking to stimulate growth and provide decent jobs for their populations in the context of a challenging global economic climate. By implementing policies consistent with the 'Decent Work Agenda' and the 'Global Jobs Pact', many countries have avoided ''an even worse jobs crisis,'' said Torres, who claimed that around 20 million jobs have been saved or created as a result of such policies.
Expansion of social policies advocated by the Pact and in line with the ILO Decent Work Agenda bore positive results, helping economic growth rather than harming competitiveness, as some feared.
Reduced working hours in factories faced with lower demand, helped limit job losses in several countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Argentina and Mexico. Many EU countries were provided with financial support and skills training for the unemployed, as a means to mitigate social hardship, while also keeping people connected with the labour market. Brazil has increased minimum wages by 5% this year and strengthened its social protection systems. Meanwhile, India has extended the availability of financial support to unemployed workers. China has expanded its social protection systems in recent years and introduced a new employment contract law since 2008, which has been instrumental in helping avoid a worsening in working conditions. The Government of South Korea introduced targeted tax measures for small businesses, which are key providers of jobs.
According to ILO’s recently released World of Work Report 2010, paying fair wages to workers and giving financial support to the poorest members of society are necessary for maintaining strong levels of aggregate demand, allowing people to afford everyday essentials such as food, clothes and housing.
Torres explained that emerging economies can “stimulate demand and ensure more sustainable growth by providing 'well-designed social protection' and making sure that that wages grow in line with the productivity.”
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