Trade unions are essential in ensuring we 'leave no one behind' in the informal economy

Opening remarks at the South Asia Trade Union Regional Seminar by Satoshi Sasaki, OIC/Deputy Director, ILO DWT for South Asia and Country Office for India.

Statement | New Delhi, India | 28 September 2023
Mr Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary, ITUC – AP, Mr Hiranmay Pandya, President, BMS, ILO GB Members Mr Zahoor Awan and Mr Ashok Singh, Mr Ma Jin, Director-General, ACFTU International Department, Hon. Minister Mr Jeevan Thondaman, MP and General Secretary, CWC, Sri Lanka, Ms Andre Maria Helena, Director, ILO Bureau of Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV) and my dear Sisters and Brothers from Trade Unions of South Asia!

It is my pleasure that I welcome you all to the South Asia Trade Union Symposium on Building Trade Union Power: Leading the Future of Work. The ACTRAV, the Decent Work Team for South Asia and Country Office for India along with our International Training Centre (ITC) have worked together with your valuable inputs for developing this Symposium.

Our gathering here today will take forward the ideas of the Singapore Statement that recognizes the significance of such conventions in promoting dialogue and joint action by diverse voices with a common agenda for decent work. I would like look back to the recent years when many of the South Asian economies faced complex socio-political crises. While the COVID-19 pandemic was indiscriminate across the sub-region in its devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of workers, its long-term consequences are projected to disproportionally affect those who remain in the informal economy. The situation has not been helped by simultaneous political economic adversities in countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The Global Call to Action has become even more relevant therefore in the recovery efforts in South Asia. And if we are to ‘leave no one behind’, Trade Unions must lead from the front.

As the Decent Work Team for South Asia, me and my colleagues have seen closely the leadership role of the Trade Unions in supporting the people and countries cope with these crises. As I look forward, I see a concern that I am sure many of you share. While people from all walks of life and ideologies come together in times of crises, it is how recovery post-crises is achieved that shapes the future of societies and countries. South Asian countries have had a rich history of social dialogue institutions, but of late, we must admit, tripartite engagement mechanisms have seen a decline. As ILO, developing and promoting robust social dialogue processes is our highest priority.

The same has been underscored in the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work and all the Decent Work Country Programmes that have been launched or are in development. This Symposium is an effort to stand with the South Asian trade unions’ assertion for their right to be represented in policy-making that shapes the present world and future of work in the sub-region. With your united voice and commitment, we are confident that trade unions in South Asia will harness their experience and foresight to advance their leadership role in a just future of work.

I look forwards to the fruitful deliberations for the next two days. I wish you all will have present stay in New Delhi.

Thank you for your attention.