ILO Statement to the 2014 ECOSOC Integration Segment

Infrastructure, other investments key to promoting decent work in cities

Employment is the key that unlocks the door of economic and social development and environmental sustainability.

Statement | 28 May 2014
Economic and Social Council
Integration Segment: General Debate

28 May 2014

Statement delivered by Ms. Jane Stewart,
Special Representative to the United Nations and Director, ILO New York

Mr. President,

Job creation is a top priority for the world’s cities. Employment is the key that unlocks the door of economic and social development and environmental sustainability. Principal engines of productive activity and economic growth are located in cities and towns, contributing disproportionately to national output. The magnitude and speed of urbanization, especially in developing countries, pose an urban challenge, particularly in providing adequate jobs, infrastructure and social protection. The increasing numbers of jobseekers who cannot find decent work opportunities is leading to growing informality and poverty. Cities and towns will not be sustainable if the livelihoods of their residents are not properly addressed.

While wealth may be concentrated in the urban areas, it is by and large unevenly distributed. Urban poverty is extensive, and is increasingly overtaking rural poverty. Poverty increases the vulnerability of urban workers and perpetuates other risks, such as food insecurity, lack of protection against disease, environmental hazards, crime and violence. In addition to its direct consequences, poverty also limits the ability of urban workers to fully contribute to a productive economy and the greening of cities and towns. ILO’s Decent Work Agenda is of central importance to achieving urban sustainability and addressing inequalities and vulnerabilities.
Appropriate policies and interventions can contribute significantly to promoting decent work in cities. ILO experience indicates that labour intensive investments in infrastructure provide real opportunity for job creation in urban areas. One of the strengths of this approach is that it does not require large injections of external resources. Rather, it can be implemented using locally available resources and can produce three to five times more direct employment than conventional small and medium scale infrastructure methods.

Labour intensive and other job creation policies must be developed through a process of social dialogue, with respect for workers' rights, and the provision of social protection. Many urban workers face challenges related to their inability to secure rights. This has practical implications for their living and working conditions and for productivity. Social protection also needs to be addressed in order to ensure sustainable urban development. Inappropriate working and living conditions expose many urban workers to risk on a daily basis, increasing their vulnerability. A large number of urban workers are poor and live in neighbourhoods with inadequate sanitation and housing conditions. Many do not have access to an adequate system of health care, pay for holidays, and protection against loss of pay when they are unable to work due to unemployment, illness, accidents or old age. Social dialogue is an important means for workers, employers and the government to jointly discuss solutions to the challenges facing urban labour market needs.

Mr. President,

The ECOSOC has maintained decent work for all as a central priority of its programme of work, with ministerial declarations adopted in 2006 and 2012. Yet, the tremendous challenge remains to integrate some 404 million new entrants into the labour market in the next decade while also absorbing the 202 million unemployed. Proactive, employment-centred, inclusive growth strategies and coherent policy frameworks must continue to be promoted. Recognizing the persistent challenges and the need for concerted action, the ILO suggests consideration of the question “How can decent work become the entry point for policy integration,” as the theme of the 2015 Integration Segment. The ILO commits itself to supporting Member States in this regard, to achieve a successful outcome.

I thank you.