ILO Statement to the 2012 ECOSOC High-Level Segment

A jobs-centered development agenda

Action for jobs now is critical for growth and development and the shaping of fairer, greener and less volatile globalization.

Statement | New York | 09 July 2012
This Annual Ministerial Review is particularly timely and relevant. The reports before Ministers present a disturbing picture of fragile economic and social conditions despite a large range of national policy initiatives. The harsh reality is that the drag on growth and recovery caused by the continuing repercussions of the financial crisis is stronger than the stimulus to demand imparted by the measures that governments and central banks have launched.

Focus on productive capacities and decent work is thus not only a manner to give an immediate response to the global jobs crisis. It is essential to stopping a vicious downward spiral and creating a virtuous upward spiral. Action for jobs now is critical for growth and development and the shaping of fairer, greener and less volatile globalization.
A jobs-centred development agenda: policy priorities

A policy agenda centred on decent jobs and productive capacities has positive short term and long term effects in addressing labour market vulnerabilities and inadequate patterns of growth and development. Measures to generate employment and safeguard workers are a critical tool to build future productive capacities and trigger long-term broad-based economic transformation and development.

First, tackling youth employment.
Vigorous action is needed as an essential investment in future productive capacities as well as a response to an immediate political priority. Stronger education and vocational training systems are vital. Several countries have also successfully introduced public employment programmes targeting vulnerable youth. Other effective programmes combined a range of services, for instance training, retraining, apprenticeship and placement and search services. A critical element is to coordinate labour market interventions with macroeconomic and sectoral policies. The Call to Action on youth employment adopted last month at the ILO annual International Labour Conference provides a portfolio of policy options to respond to the challenges faced by young people in all regions.

Second, investment in infrastructure and other job-intensive sectors.
Addressing gaps in infrastructure - with respect to transport, housing, energy, water, schools, hospitals and the greening of the economy – has strong employment multiplier effects. At the same time, it provides opportunities for productive diversification and generates public goods that enhance the productivity of workers and enterprises over the long-term.

Third, support for small enterprises, cooperatives and start-ups.
The priority is to channel greater financial resources to productive small businesses. In many developing countries only a small portion of total credit goes to the productive sector, dampening entrepreneurship and innovation. The global financial crisis is adding to this constraint. We need to reverse this trend if necessary with public guarantees and properly managed development finance to overcome self-fulfilling negative expectations of weak growth or recession. An enabling business environment is an important prerequisite.

Fourth, basic social protection and the quality of work.
Attention to the quality of jobs and safeguards for workers and their families are fundamental for growth that is more inclusive and more sustainable. We must look at labour market institutions and social policies in a new positive light. A new international labour standard, Recommendation 202, was adopted by the ILO constituents last month, to set out a strategy for building nationally defined social protection floors. The ILO looks forward to a major international initiative in this area. Other UN agencies and international organizations have already started working together. Providing a minimum level of security for the poorest (health, child support, old age and disability pensions, and employment guarantee schemes) enhances their chances of engaging in decent and productive work in the long run, with a limited fiscal charge and wider benefits in terms of greater social cohesion.

Fifth, policy coherence.
A whole-of-government approach is vital to efforts to pursue inclusive, equitable and sustainable economic growth and development. At the national level, achieving policy coherence has to do mainly with political commitment to a given objective, administrative capacity, sound policy analysis, and a transparent and participative decision-making process. Social dialogue and consultations with employers, trade unions and civil society are a conduit to coherence. International policy coherence poses distinctive challenges. The process that started last month in Rio to work towards the establishment of “sustainable development goals” provides a point of departure to move towards a development agenda that is more coherent and better integrated. The challenge is to embed the vision of sustainable development into operational routines, targets and goals that effectively integrate the critical economic, social and environmental dimensions.

To conclude, in the wake of the global economic crisis, a new conversation has started about the importance of stronger employment, labour market and skills policies; the need for investment in infrastructure and productive capacities; the role of sustainable enterprises, especially SMEs; the urgency to set up social protection floors and raising labour standards and the coherence of macroeconomic policies. These are critical elements for a more effective agenda for sustainable and inclusive development, up to 2015 and beyond. The ILO looks to this Annual Ministerial Review as a milestone in sharpening our thinking and prompting stronger action.