ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

276th Session
Geneva, November 1999


Report of the Committee on Employment
and Social Policy


I. Preparations for the general discussion at the 88th Session (2000) of the International Labour Conference concerning human resources training and development: Vocational guidance and vocational training

II. Key Indicators of the Labour Market (KILM)

III. Preparations for the Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the Implementation of the Outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and Further Initiatives

IV: Economic and financial crises -- ILO policy and activities

V. ILO relations with the Bretton Woods institutions

VI. Other matters

1. The Committee on Employment and Social Policy met on 12 November 1999. Mr. Simanjuntak (Government, Indonesia) was elected Chairperson. Mr. Niles and Mr. Ito were elected as Employer and Worker Vice-Chairperson respectively.

2. The Committee had the following agenda:

  1. Preparations for the general discussion at the 88th Session (2000) of the International Labour Conference concerning human resources training and development: Vocational guidance and vocational training.
  2. Key Indicators of the Labour Market (KILM).
  3. Preparations for the Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the Implementation of the Outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and Further Initiatives.
  4. Economic and financial crises -- ILO policy and activities:
    (a) Unemployment benefits;
    (b) Report on the Informal Tripartite Meeting at the Ministerial Level on Economic and Financial Crises -- ILO action (Geneva, 9 June 1999).
  5. ILO relations with the Bretton Woods institutions.

I. Preparations for the general discussion at the
88th Session (2000) of the International Labour Conference
concerning human resources training and development:
Vocational guidance and Vocational training

3. The Committee had before it an Office paper(1)  describing the report being prepared.

4. A representative of the Director-General (Mr. Alfthan, Chief of Unit, InFocus Programme on Skills Development) said that the report Training for employment, productivity and social inclusion would be distributed by April 2000 and would focus on three major issues --

  1. The concept of employability in the context of the changing economic, labour market and social environment and the corresponding demand for new skills and competences.
  2. Recent reform efforts undertaken by governments and by employers' and workers' organizations and other actors in training for improved effectiveness and social equity.
  3. The roles and responsibilities of various parties in policy-making on training, financing and promoting skills.

5. Four regional tripartite consultative meetings on human resources development (HRD) and training held in 1999 had provided an opportunity to assess the situation in the regions. The purpose of the general discussion would be to provide guidance for possible future standard-setting activities in the area of human resource development and training.

6. The Employer Vice-Chairperson recalled that this agenda item had been initiated by the Employers' group in November 1998. The Office paper did not sufficiently emphasize the role of training for young people, who needed to be educated in a modern way so that their ability to learn would improve. Education and training systems should prepare young people to find and keep a job and to be responsible citizens. Lifelong learning had increased importance due to rapid technological change and globalization. The financing of lifelong learning was an important issue, but he did not accept the suggestion in the Office paper that restructuring enterprises should play a leading role in financing continuing training. Many government employment and training programmes had failed. Such programmes should be not only well financed, but also well targeted and should focus on the real future needs of the economy. Workers needed more training, as they were likely to change jobs several times during their careers. He expressed doubt regarding the appropriateness of standard setting in the area of vocational training, since it was clear that no one system would work in all cases.

7. The Worker Vice-Chairperson agreed with the Employer Vice-Chairperson that the general discussion at the International Labour Conference should emphasize the training of young people, but should not be separated from the issue of lifelong learning, which entailed training support to unemployed workers. Training for the unemployed should become a priority for training systems. In this context the Human Resources Development Convention, 1975 (No. 142), and the Paid Educational Leave Convention, 1974 (No. 140), were most relevant. All children should receive a good compulsory education enabling them her to participate in the life of their society. Basic education and technological education were not sufficient: cultural training was also needed. He emphasized the importance of involving both employers and unions in training. To support this, workers must be motivated for training so that they could benefit from the new opportunities that skills development could bring them. Incentives should be established to encourage employers to recruit and train less skilled people. He emphasized the important role of basic education in ensuring employability, since the skills provided by enterprises were usually job-specific. A proper balance between academic education and skills training was needed. There was a considerable difference between initial and lifelong learning. The latter was an ill-defined concept and needed to be made more concrete. The reference in the paper to inequality of access to training should not be confined to developing countries, as industrialized countries also faced this problem. The issues of gender discrimination and training of minority groups should be better pronounced. In what was coming to be termed the "knowledge society", competitiveness would be determined by investment in skills. The role of workers' organizations in training needed to be better expressed. He questioned the strong emphasis on the decentralization of training: there were good examples of strong and responsive training systems that were governed centrally. NGOs played a lesser role in training than suggested in the ILO paper.

8. The representative of the Government of the Netherlands drew attention to the following major issues: lifelong learning and the commitment of the social partners to support it, as well as possible partnerships with other relevant groups, such as NGOs; active labour market policies for youth employment; and employability. However, the paper barely touched on the training needs of the informal sector, small and medium-sized firms, or the training needs of workers, particularly women workers, who would like to return to work.

9. Mr. Anand (Employer member) emphasized that youth training should be more expressly covered in the Conference report. One of the important issues to be covered was the extent to which education was becoming more vocational. Education systems should offer more training programmes as well as sandwich courses for young people, and should emphasize the development of enterprise spirit in collaboration with the social partners. Representatives of ministries of education should be invited to the Conference.

10. The representative of the Government of China emphasized the linkages between education and employment, training and economic globalization. Education and training should be lifelong and should be required mechanisms of tripartite cooperation. Both basic education and skills training had undergone major reforms, and the ILO should express a position on them. The issue of vocational guidance, mentioned in the title, was not developed in the Office paper itself. She suggested that the ILO strengthen its cooperation with UNDP and other agencies in the area of skills development.

11. The representative of the Government of the United Kingdom asked whether the report could be made available before April 2000. She strongly supported the focus on lifelong learning. In the United Kingdom, education and training had become one of the major policy issues for the Government and were considered an important vehicle for development in a knowledge society. She referred to the Charter on the Aims and Ambitions for Lifelong Learning adopted by the G8 Heads of State and of Government in June 1999, which encompassed many of the proposals made by previous speakers for inclusion in the Conference discussion. The Office might consider how good practices in the areas of lifelong learning could be effectively disseminated, particularly since the Conference discussion was likely to generate an exchange of ideas on policies and practices. She also drew attention to the responsibility of individuals for their own lifelong learning and to the responsibilities of governments and employers' and workers' organizations. The United Kingdom Government had begun an initiative in setting up individual learning accounts to which individuals, employers, the Government and others could contribute.

12. The representative of the Government of Sudan, speaking on behalf of the African Government members, stressed the importance of skills training for agricultural workers, which was not covered in the Office paper. In Africa, the agricultural sector employed large numbers of people. Productivity was low, and hence training and the introduction of technological packages were of paramount importance in the sector, where employment was seasonal. Training in employable skills was urgent to provide jobs for workers in off-season activities. People living in the rural areas needed education and training. Training for small enterprises and craft workers was another concern for Africa. Women should also receive more training in order to equally contribute to productivity growth and enjoy better wages. Social institutions, which were unfortunately underdeveloped, should be involved in the development of skills training. The report should give more thought to macroeconomic issues and to structural adjustment in Africa. He emphasized the need to establish national machinery for tripartite dialogue which would improve the distribution of resources and strengthen HRD programmes.

13. The representative of the Government of France said that the report should reflect strategic trends in labour markets and HRD. The role of general education should be more pronounced. Young people needed stronger support during the transition from school to work; they should learn to adapt to change and new technologies. New technologies should be applied for distance education in order to expand access. Special attention should be paid to skills development in small enterprises and to the skill validation process for workers throughout their careers. France was reforming its system of validating prior learning.

14. The representative of the Government of Italy emphasized the need to link vocational training to the labour market. Greater cooperation between education and labour ministries was required. In Italy, a network of job offices had been established, and continuing efforts were needed to create new jobs. Training programmes should better fit local conditions, for which local tripartite committees were particularly important. Training systems should be more active in addressing the needs of self-employed persons and the informal sector. The ILO should provide guidance on this.

15. Mr. Patel (Worker member) said that the Office report should focus mostly on youth training and employment. He suggested that the report distinguish between three equally important areas: pre-employment training; in-service training; and training for the unemployed. Although employers' and workers' organizations were involved in the process of skills development, the role of governments was to ensure equal access to training. Skills training should be compulsory, and subsidized by governments. Training for the socially excluded should be a priority. Modern economies required modern training, for which the institutional capacity should be developed with the strong participation of employers' and workers' organizations. More training for employees could be provided during working hours. National investment in skills could be provided by earmarking a percentage of the payroll to be spent on training. A contribution to the eradication of child labour could be provided by ensuring access to basic education. It was important to expand the level of enrolment in training courses and to improve access for women and the socially excluded. The initiator of industrial restructuring, whether governments or employers, should provide a major financial contribution to retraining workers. The ILO should document and disseminate examples of best practices in achieving good educational outcomes, more equitable distribution of education and training services, and involvement of the social partners in HRD. He supported the proposals that the report should address training for informal sector workers, discuss the main macroeconomic policies that did not undermine national expenditure on education and training, and cover institutional arrangements in training which involved the social partners.

16. The representative of the Government of Portugal suggested that the report give greater coverage to new education, training and lifelong learning practices; reinforcing the role of the social partners through encouraging partnerships of various kinds such as an enterprise training school; and strengthening the role of public employment and training services along with private agencies. Public employment and training services would remain important in the fight against social exclusion.

17. The representative of the Government of Denmark called for a closer focus on training for workers in the informal sector, which had generated up to 90 per cent of all new jobs in developing countries. The discussion of youth training and employment and training for new technologies should also be prominent in the report.

18. The representative of the Government of Brazil proposed that vocational training be complemented by general education and management training, particularly for small and medium enterprises and cooperatives. She suggested that the word "industry" be replaced by "enterprises or organizations".

19. The representative of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago suggested that the report develop an integrated approach to education and vocational training and development. The global youth unemployment problem made it essential for best practices developed in various countries to be broadly disseminated. The improvement of teachers' skills and the capacity and quality of training providers were specific problems in developing countries. The report should also elaborate on a clearer concept of the informal sector.

20. The representative of the Government of the United States supported the comments by the representatives of the Governments of Denmark and the Netherlands. He suggested that the subject be approached in terms of the concept of decent work, which was an important issue in the United States. He also proposed that the Committee discuss the important results of the ILO Enterprise Forum, and congratulated the ILO on its InFocus programmes, three of which dealt with employment-related issues.

21. The representative of the Government of Japan considered that enterprises needed workers who possessed basic skills, human relations skills and information technology skills. In order to improve productivity and competitiveness, workers should also be creative, flexible, adaptive to change and capable of problem solving. Skills and competencies should change in line with changes in the labour market. Training systems should make better use of labour market information and improve cooperation with job placement services. Governments should play a major role in funding initial training and training for the disabled and other disadvantaged groups, such as the unemployed, and the private sector should be in charge of job-related training. Individuals needed financial support and sufficient time for study, but should also assume a greater personal role in education and training.

22. The representative of the Government of India suggested that the discussion should be more focused on the role of training for youth employment, which should be reflected in the report. Deregulation and the restructuring of manufacturing was complemented by dramatic improvements in information technology. These changes demanded improved skills and competencies in managing enterprises in the organized sector and among small-scale firms, which were closely linked to larger firms. While employment in the organized sector had been declining, the potential of the small-scale sector in creating jobs and improving productivity and earnings was enormous. The Conference report should reflect the need for, and recommend measures to develop, lifelong learning. The private sector had now to assume a major role in financing and upgrading training, as it would benefit fully from a skilled labour force. New opportunities for partnerships in training should be developed. Governments should be facilitators and catalysts, rather than providers of training. Governments should provide the overall policy and system framework and encourage quality investments in skills, and should also assume responsibility for training for the informal sector. Since the informal sector was linked to the organized sector, the latter should also provide training facilities for informal sector workers.

23. The representative of the Government of Canada suggested that there should be a greater focus in the Conference report on youth employment. The Conference discussions should provide an opportunity to share experience and good practices in the areas of lifelong learning and skills training. She stressed the importance of partnerships and the need to address the specific traning needs of SMEs, women, people with disabilities and indigenous peoples. The report should also cover the use of modern technology in basic education and lifelong learning.

24. The representative of the Government of Malaysia said that the need for modern skills was addressed by developing industrial training institutions, which provided industry-specific skills to school leavers. Such institutions cooperated with the private sector, which provided trainees with practical experience. Malaysia would be establishing ten more industrial training institutes by the year 2000. Continuing training in Malaysia was addressed through its Human Resources Development Fund, which financed the training of employed people: employers were encouraged to provide training, and their training costs were reimbursed by the Fund. The national workers' organization also operated its own technical teaching institute.

25. The representative of the Government of Cyprus suggested that the report should cover only three major issues: lifelong learning, the employment and training of young people, and training for the informal sector. Human resources development was a priority issue.

26. The Employer Vice-Chairperson emphasized the need for training policies to be responsive to the continuing technological revolution. Continuing retraining of employees had become a very important issue. The report should focus on youth employment, training and employability. Considerable progress in training could be achieved in developing countries by exploiting the possibilities of the Internet. He doubted that public support could be provided for training in the informal sector, as operators there tended to escape government regulations. The report should not deal with macroeconomic policies or their impact on training, as this would go beyond the goal of the report. Enterprises restructured because their operations needed to change, not because they necessarily wanted to, but this should not become the basis for deciding who should bear the social cost of restructuring. Skills development was not suitable for standard setting.

27. The Worker Vice-Chairperson said that the idea of standard setting in training should be taken into account. If standards helped unemployed people, then they were worth considering. Employers who initiated restructuring should bear the major social cost. Efforts should be made to help marginalized people in the informal sector to improve their situation. The report should express clear views on the roles of governments, employers and workers in vocational training.

28. A representative of the Director-General (Mr. Hultin, Executive Director, Employment Sector) said that the ILO's priority was to develop new employment policies on job creation and skills development. An important task was to understand future requirements, which would underpin skills development strategies.

29. Another representative of the Director-General (Mr. Alfthan) thanked the Committee for a rich debate and for useful suggestions for greater focus on certain issues, which would be highlighted in the Conference report. The most important issue raised was youth employment and training, on which the report would have a special section. It would analyse youth employment in various countries and examine how integrated employment and training policies could improve their lives. It was important to link basic education, initial training, vocational training, and continuing training in building and maintaining individual employability in rapidly changing labour markets. Training people for non-existent jobs was a waste of effort and money. A first step to building an individual's employability should be basic education, followed by initial training for a smoother transition to the labour market, and then to maintain employability by providing access to lifelong learning opportunities. The ILO had developed further cooperation with UNESCO to develop a common policy framework on technical and vocational education and training. The report would include brief examples of best practices in training. At the Conference studies would be presented on methods of and approaches to analysing and developing training policies and systems, strengthening social dialogue in training, and financing training.

II. Key Indicators of the Labour Market (KILM)

30. A representative of the Director-General (Mr. Sengenberger, Director, Employment Strategy Department) introduced the paper on Key Indicators of the Labour Market.(2)  The Key Indicators of the Labour Market (KILM) project had been launched in response to a request made by the International Labour Conference in 1996 to provide accurate and timely labour market information. The objectives of the project were: (1) to develop a set of labour market indicators; and (2) to widen the availability of the indicators as a means of monitoring employment trends. The resulting products -- a publication of 600 pages, a CD-ROM and the KILM website on the Internet -- had all been developed within the ILO Employment and Labour Market Policies Branch of the Employment and Training Department, in collaboration with the Bureau of Statistics. The project brought together a set of 18 indicators that together gave a significant profile of the world's labour markets, both past and present, ranging from labour force, employment, unemployment and underemployment to productivity, wages, labour costs and income and poverty indicators. Future activities for KILM in 2000 and 2001 would include the introduction of new indicators; disaggregation of the current indicators (increased detail); a synthesis report; the introduction of world and regional estimates and measures of labour market dynamics, as well as efforts to work with member countries to encourage the wider collection of data and to make the data available through the various KILM media in a more timely fashion.

31. The Worker Vice-Chairperson welcomed the KILM product and asked how its products might best be used. Two issues needed to be addressed. First, KILM 3 -- the indicator of status in employment -- set out three categories: (a) wage and salaried workers; (b) self-employed workers; and (c) contributing family workers. In addition to these categories, numerous working persons would fall into grey areas, and the ILO should investigate the possibility of more detailed levels of categorization. Secondly, KILM 18 -- the indicator on poverty -- did not allow for a sufficient degree of analysis of the current situation of inequality of income levels within countries.

32. The Employer Vice-Chairperson was very impressed with the KILM product. However, he suggested that the terminology "excessive" as in "those working excessive hours" and "normal" as in "more than the normal workweek" used for KILM 6, concerning hours of work, were of a pejorative, subjective tone that was inappropriate for ILO language. He expressed his appreciation for the stated intention of decreasing the lag time between the collection and publication of data, and suggested that the Internet might serve as the medium through which this goal could be achieved. Finally, he suggested further disaggregation of the data collected, particularly that for the service sector, and proposed a distinction between employment in urban and rural sectors. He asked whether the KILM publication might entail a duplication of effort given the simultaneous publication of the Yearbook of Labour Statistics, and wondered if the two projects might be merged at some future date.

33. The representative of the Government of the United States commended the ILO on the media attention received by the KILM product. He noted the difficult task of amassing the necessary detail of data provided through household surveys. He asked the Office to explore, as follow-up on the KILM project, the possibility of developing the KILM Web pages into a database-linked site that would allow users access to the data from which they could perform more in-depth analyses.

34. The representative of the Government of the United Kingdom expressed her appreciation of the KILM product. Some degree of regional variation was needed within countries for the measure of employment and unemployment. Secondly, statistical measures were needed that could account for the economic activities of different ethnic groups within countries.

35. The representative of the Government of Denmark considered that the publication would become an important tool for analysis, which had succeeded where so many past efforts at gathering statistics into a convenient, easy-to-use reference book had failed. She looked forward to further work by the project.

36. The representative of the Government of China appreciated the meaningful initiative shown by the ILO with the KILM production. This project would be an important tool in promoting comparisons of labour market situations worldwide. In the presentation of data, more absolute figures were needed to complement the percentage shares currently given. He made the following two suggestions: (1) an international standard definition was needed for part-time work; (2) the limitations on comparability that stemmed from the application of different measurement standards needed to be carefully noted in analyses, and improvements in standard measurements encouraged.

37. The representative of the Government of the Netherlands considered that KILM was a highly relevant ILO project. She encouraged further Office work in this area and looked forward to a synthesis report as promised for the future.

38. The representative of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago felt that KILM offered exciting prospects for analysis, and even more importantly, opportunities for the expansion of technical assistance programmes instigated by the ILO. The gaps in data coverage could highlight where technical assistance was needed, i.e. where the ILO could focus its efforts on training member countries in methods of data collection.

39. The representative of the Government of Mexico expressed his thanks to the ILO for the production of KILM. Regarding the suggestion made by the Government representative of the United Kingdom for the collection and publication of labour market data for ethnic groups, he had reservations. There was tremendous difficulty in gathering information at this level of detail in certain countries, and adding a criterion of this kind would encourage much confusion and hamper the process of data collection.

40. The representative of the Government of Germany, stated in response that data on ethnic groups would not be legitimate in view of personnel data protection regulations, and were often only made available on a voluntary basis, and therefore too difficult to gather for the purposes of KILM.

41. Replying to the Worker Vice-Chairperson on the question of how to make good use of KILM, the representative of the Director-General (Mr. Sengenberger) emphasized that KILM would serve as a tool for analysis within the ILO in projects such as the World Employment Report, which would present current labour market trends through the use of KILM data. The proposal to better define and quantify the grey areas of employment status in KILM 3 overlooked the problem of how difficult it was to fully capture the employment situation of all workers: for example, there was the category of "dependently self-employed" workers who, while self-employed, worked solely for one or two companies and thus resembled workers classified as employees. The legal and statistical definitions of workers did not always coincide. Regarding the suggestion for further disaggregation of employment and unemployment data by urban and rural areas made by the Employer Vice-Chairperson, he recalled that the ILO was dependent on the availability of data within member countries. The ILO and the KILM staff were investigating means of expanding collaboration with member countries to expand data coverage.

42. A representative of the Director-General (Mr. Johnson, Employment Strategy Department, in charge of the KILM team) stated that the KILM staff was currently exploring the option of how to best disseminate the data. One possibility would be the downloading of data updates from the KILM website to add to the KILM CD-ROM. In reply to the request by the representative of the Government of China for absolute figures, he remarked that absolute data was available on the KILM CD-ROM, whereas the KILM publication offered only percentage shares on account of size constraints. Regarding the distinction between KILM and the Yearbook of Labour Statistics, he stressed that the Yearbook contained raw data whereas KILM provided analyses of the data and suggestions for further analyses. The two ILO products were complementary.

III. Preparations for the Special Session of the General Assembly
of the United Nations on the Implementation of the
Outcome of the World Summit for Social Development
and Further Initiatives

43. Introducing the Office paper,(3)  a representative of the Director-General (Ms. Ducci, Director of the Bureau for External Relations and Partnerships) recalled that the main objective of the Special Session was to reaffirm the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and Programme of Action, to review progress and obstacles to their implementation and to recommend the concrete action that could be taken towards their full and effective implementation. She noted that the ILO had been involved actively in the preparatory work for the Copenhagen meeting, that it had played a prominent role at the Summit itself and that, as a result, employment issues had been well reflected in the Declaration and Programme of Action. Subsequently, a number of measures had been taken to give effect to the outcome of the Summit -- particularly Commitment 3 (Promoting the goal of full employment), which were outlined in the Office paper. Recent ILO initiatives included the adoption in 1998 of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the adoption of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182).

44. The International Consultation concerning follow-up on the World Summit for Social Development had been a key event in preparations for the Special Session, and the conclusions would provide the main source of guidance for the ILO's contribution to the second session of the Preparatory Committee in April 2000. In Decision 1 on the role expected of organizations in the UN system, adopted by the Preparatory Committee, there was a clear role for the ILO in relation to Commitment 3, as detailed in paragraph 9 of the Office paper. The ILO was contributing to the process in three principal ways: by continuing to contribute to the reports reviewing the implementation of the Copenhagen documents, including the detachment of an ILO official to the UN secretariat team responsible for the preparation of the Special Session; through proposals for further initiatives, including the conclusions of the International Consultation and other relevant guidance from the Governing Body, which would be incorporated into a single comprehensive report; and through special events during both the preparatory process and throughout the Special Session itself.

45. A representative of the Director-General (Mr. Sengenberger) referred to the conclusions of the International Consultation, which reaffirmed the continuing validity of the Copenhagen commitments regarding employment and the reduction of poverty, but emphasized the need for renewed efforts and the political will to implement them effectively. The conclusions also affirmed that the ILO should continue to play a central role in the global campaign for the achievement of full employment and should develop, in collaboration with the tripartite partners and the UN system agencies, new operational objectives to give better effect to the commitments made at Copenhagen, six of which were listed in paragraph 15 of the conclusions. Along with other UN agencies, the Bretton Woods institutions, the OECD and regional organizations, the ILO was called upon to organize and develop a coordinated process of mutual learning and sharing of experience with regard to successful employment and labour market policy outcomes through various measures (paragraph 16).

46. The Employer Vice-Chairperson welcomed the commitment of the Director-General to keep the Governing Body informed of preparations for the Special Session, which presumably related also to making available to the Governing Body for review in March 2000 the ILO's consolidated contribution. The ILO's message to the Special Session should reflect the realities of the world economy, namely, that the growth of employment depended on economic growth which, in turn, depended on coherent, non-inflationary macroeconomic policies and the liberalization of trade and investment (paragraph 6 of the conclusions of the International Consultation). It was clear that the ILO had to comment on the social side of the process, but its message should not suggest that the Special Session should take a stand against globalization or structural adjustment. He hoped it would be possible for the social partners to participate in the Special Session, as they had in the Copenhagen Social Summit, and sought the Office's support and assistance in this regard.

47. The Worker Vice-Chairperson agreed that full tripartite participation in the Special Session would be very important for the ILO, and hoped that the Office would ensure that the United Nations took this view into consideration in its preparatory process. He also hoped that governments would include social partners in their delegations. The ILO had accomplished good work in its follow-up on the Social Summit. He recalled that, at the beginning of the Copenhagen meeting, the Prime Minister of Denmark had emphasized the importance of human security. At the same time, some governments had expressed frustration at the widening gap in the levels of prosperity of different peoples in this age of globalization. Preventing the widening of the gap between rich and poor was an important part of the ILO's mandate, which it had not been possible to achieve. In Copenhagen, the then Secretary-General of the United Nations had characterized the Summit as a starting point for social development where nations could join their efforts to establish human rights, eliminate discrimination, eradicate poverty and create employment -- goals that were necessary for world peace, and which should constitute the focus of the Special Session. The four strategic objectives and the cross-cutting issues of gender and development, as outlined in Decent work, should be the basis for the ILO's analysis contributed to follow-up on the Social Summit.

48. The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work should be presented to the WTO, the IMF and to the regional development banks to highlight its importance. The International Consultation would have been even better had more information been available concerning the ILO's past and future activities concerning preparations for the Special Session. The ILO should have confidence in expressing clearly at the next Preparatory Committee meeting what it had done and intended to do but, in addition, a timetable should be attached to these various objectives so that countries could be encouraged to undertake the necessary action. The Special Session should mark the occasion for another starting point to eradicate poverty and encourage decent forms of work with a view to full employment.

49. The representative of the Government of Germany considered that the Office paper provided much good information about the preparations under way for the Special Session, and expressed sincere thanks for the work being carried out by the Office. The new initiatives mentioned in paragraph 15 of the conclusions of the International Consultation were interesting, even though some considered they did not go far enough. In paragraphs 12 and 15(f) of that document, reference was made to the need for specific measures to be taken for various disadvantaged groups, including workers with disabilities. It would be preferable to refer to people with "special social needs".

50. The representative of the Government of Sudan, speaking on behalf of the African Government members, expressed support for paragraph 19 of the paper, where specific mention was made of the activities to be taken into consideration and integrated in the overall ILO contribution. He also endorsed the conclusions of the International Consultation, paragraph 5 of which stated that, on the basis of ILO reports, the employment situation and progress in alleviating poverty in many parts of the world, particularly among developing countries and countries in transition, remained unsatisfactory and, in some countries, had deteriorated. In Africa the differing levels of development between countries was a dangerous situation. The overall picture was one of low levels of development, which led to very high levels of poverty. Consequently, it was crucial to stress the importance of initiatives to alleviate poverty in Africa. Paragraph 6 of the conclusions stated that the basic policies for attaining the employment goals set in the Copenhagen documents were still relevant, but required renewed efforts and the political will to implement them effectively. Here it was relevant to refer to paragraph 15 of the conclusions, which called on the Organization to develop practical initiatives, in cooperation with the tripartite partners, to give further effect to the outcome of Copenhagen. These initiatives must be implemented as part of an international strategy, and the ILO had to have the internal and external resources to implement the activities within its mandate. The conclusions of the Organization of African Unity's Labour and Social Affairs Commission (Windhoek, 1999), approved by the High-Level Tripartite Regional Symposium on Social Dialogue, should be taken into account, as should the Declaration and Appeal issued by the meeting of Heads of Government of the Group of Fifteen, which called for encouraging and improving conditions of work in Third World countries. Emphasis should also be placed on labour-intensive projects to rehabilitate infrastructure destroyed by natural disasters and armed conflict and on taking into account the employment needs of displaced persons, migrants and the rural poor. The Jobs for Africa project must be implemented in the largest number of African countries.

51. The representative of the Government of France considered that, at the Special Session, the ILO should focus attention on its essential values and activities, which were the fundamental rights of workers and Commitment 3 of the Copenhagen Declaration. Rather than intervene in collecting experience and information on good practices, the ILO should speak on strategies for employment (which did not erode growth) and employment policy. Certain countries, including her own, were attempting to improve their handling of these issues in ways that ensured that targeted policies were earmarked for vulnerable sectors of society while also ensuring the articulation of these concerns with economic policies. In 1998, an Act had been adopted in France on combating poverty and exclusion which called for strong, joint repetitive action to combat the various factors which contributed to poverty. It was not merely a matter of financial difficulties: sometimes inadequate basic education, housing problems or lack of access to various social welfare measures available led to exclusion from normal social activities. It was necessary to concentrate on the root causes of poverty rather than its manifestations.

52. The representative of the Government of India complimented the Office on its informative and useful documents, and hoped that the Governing Body would be informed adequately of the ILO's consolidated response to the Special Session.

53. The representative of the Government of Pakistan considered that the Special Session provided an opportunity to measure progress, identify obstacles to the goals set by Copenhagen and to chart a future course of action. Employment that met the conditions outlined in Commitment 3 of the Copenhagen Declaration was the surest path to economic and social development. The Director-General's report Decent work attempted to strike a balance between the goal of promoting employment and ensuring that it was not exploitative and met the aim of being freely chosen, secure, sustainable and available to all men and women equally. The ILO should include, in its reports for the Special Session, a dispassionate and impartial analysis of why the goals set out in the Copenhagen Declaration had not been realized to the degree hoped in 1995. There were clear causes which included, from the perspective of a developing country like his own, the lack of an enabling environment, the impact of globalization, the unequal distribution of the fruits of globalization and the consequent marginalization of a number of countries and entire regions, the failure to uphold official commitments regarding development assistance and debt reduction, and the needless pressure being exerted on developing countries through controversial debates on matters on which there existed no consensus, such as social labelling and the use of labour standards for trade-related and protectionist purposes. Further action and initiatives must be based on clear and realistic goals, established on the foundation of meaningful, credible, material and financial international cooperation and solidarity.

54. The representative of the Government of Denmark, speaking also on behalf of the Government of the Netherlands, associated herself with the statement made by the representative of the Government of Germany.

55. The representative of the Director-General (Ms. Ducci) reassured the Employer Vice-Chairperson that the ILO's contribution would be set in the context of the issue of globalization. As regards the participation of the social partners, the Preparatory Committee had decided at its first regular session that NGOs enjoying consultative status with ECOSOC would be allowed to speak, which included the international federations of workers and employers. She recalled that, as the meeting was a Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, it was governed by different rules from those that had applied to the global Copenhagen conference. A number of measures could be taken by the employers' and workers' organizations regarding their participation at the Special Session, including ensuring that they were included in their national delegations. The consolidated report would follow the same lines as Decent work and care would be taken to ensure that all relevant views and concerns were reflected. Some issues raised in the present debate had already been contemplated directly in the requests made to the ILO, adopted through Decision 1 of the Preparatory Committee meeting. There were time constraints involved in coordinating work on the preparatory process and providing information to the Governing Body: a decision had been reached by the Preparatory Committee concerning the specific role and contributions of the organizations of the United Nations system only in July 1999. By 1 January 2000, the ILO had to present a preliminary report containing further initiatives, which would be circulated as a preliminary Office document to the Commission on Social Development (New York, February 2000), as well as to the inter-sessional informal open-ended consultations immediately thereafter. The Office would be able to present the report to the Governing Body in March before its presentation to the second session of the Preparatory Committee in April 2000. The June Conference would also be able to express a view on the document. The Director-General had taken measures to ensure Office-wide coordination, and all sectors of the Office and the regions were contributing to the preliminary report. The review of implementation of the Copenhagen documents was being undertaken on the basis of the national reports submitted to the UN secretariat. Issues concerning the ILO, such as workers' rights and social dialogue, were being highlighted in the national reports, and the secretariat intended to include a significant section in its report on such matters.

56. The Employer Vice-Chairperson requested that the ILO report be available at the Governing Body session in March 2000. While he appreciated that the Special Session was of a different status from the Copenhagen Summit, he noted that the rules would allow for some 100 organizations to be accredited and, accordingly, expressed appreciation for the continuing assistance of the Office in ascertaining whether the social partners could be accorded special status.

IV. Economic and financial crises --
ILO policy and activities

(a) Unemployment, social protection and crises: Trends and issues

(b) Report on the Informal Tripartite Meeting at the
Ministerial Level on Economic and Financial Crises --
ILO action
(Geneva, 9 June 1999)

57. A representative of the Director-General (Mr. van Ginneken, Senior Economist, ILO Social Security Department) introducing the Office paper on unemployment, social protection and crises,(4)  stated that it addressed financial and political crises as well as crises resulting from natural disasters and armed conflicts. Depending on the type of crisis, socio-economic institutions, such as those involved in labour market policies and/or social dialogue, might be weakened or destroyed. The problem in introducing unemployment benefits in middle-income countries was that coverage was usually very low: often such countries did not have well-developed employment services, and it was more difficult to provide integrated services for jobseekers. Moreover, it was difficult to operate in a labour market where most of the workers tended to work in the informal sector.

58. A well-integrated social protection system was the best prevention against the negative consequences of crises. However, in many developing countries there was a high degree of under-coverage, ranging from about 90 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to about 50 per cent in many middle-income countries. In times of crisis, the first priority was to maintain access to health services and health insurance so that workers were able to be productively employed. Social assistance for vulnerable groups would be an additional safety net for refugees, female heads of households, orphans and other groups. It was also important that social insurance pensions for retirement, disability and survivors were in place. For underemployed workers in low-income countries, employment-intensive programmes were the first priority in crisis situations. In some types of crisis, such as armed conflicts and natural disasters, such programmes should focus on the reconstruction of economic and social infrastructure. However, in crises of a more economic nature, it was important to have ready for implementation employment-intensive programmes that had been defined well in advance of the crisis.

59. The ILO was already engaged in providing advice on unemployment benefits to a number of middle-income countries such as Thailand, Egypt, South Africa and the Russian Federation. The Office planned to prepare a best-practice report on unemployment benefit systems. In addition, the Office was embarking on a large technical cooperation and research programme on extending social protection to informal sector workers.

60. A representative of the Director-General (Mr. Hultin, Executive Director, Employment Sector) recalled the issues addressed by the Informal Tripartite Meeting at the Ministerial Level on Economic and Financial Crises, held during the International Labour Conference in June 1999.(5)  Some recurring points at the meeting included the realization that, irrespective of the nature of a crisis, the effects were largely similar. It was also noted that while rapid response mechanisms were essential, it was critical to have already been engaged in a series of preventive measures. Throughout the discussion, emphasis had been placed on social dialogue, transparency and the availability of a comprehensive strategy for poverty alleviation. He referred to the activities being undertaken in the Employment Sector to follow up on the Meeting, including the creation of the InFocus Programme on Crisis Response and Reconstruction with themes addressing pre-crisis situations, post-crisis interventions and the continuous development of strategies both to react to crises and to foster social and economic development. It was suggested that discussion focus on three issues:

61. The Worker Vice-Chairperson welcomed the useful information in the report on the high-level meeting, which was a first step towards the discussion at the Conference in 2001 on social security. The Workers' group believed strongly in the value of safety net measures to aid various vulnerable groups, both in a crisis and in normal times. Unemployment benefit schemes were good for workers, and had to be set up in collaboration with governments and employers. He also referred to Professor Amartya Sen's observation, in his address to the 87th Session of the International Labour Conference in 1999, that economic crises did not normally occur in mature democracies where respect for basic trade union rights was guaranteed. There was quite a difference in the social consequences of different crises, for example between armed conflicts and crises of an economic nature. The report should have given more attention to the control of armed conflicts and to the toll exacted in terms of human suffering and the loss of human life.

62. In October 1999 the ILO Bureau for Workers' Activities had held a symposium on trade unions and the informal sector, the conclusions of which were very valuable for further discussions on social protection. A social security system was needed that covered workers from both the informal and formal sectors and which could guarantee equal protection for all. Government support for such schemes was indispensable.

63. The Employer Vice-Chairperson agreed with the Office paper that unemployment benefit schemes had to be tailored to the specific labour market situation of a particular country, as well as to its level of economic development. However, social protection schemes were becoming increasingly unaffordable, particularly in the developed countries, where social protection expenditure could represent over 25 per cent of GDP. Social protection was increasingly needed in view of the ageing of the population, and funded and private pension systems would hence be needed to cope with these developments. More discussion should therefore take place on the affordability of social protection systems. Key questions were what systems worked and which were affordable. Paragraph 48 of the paper appropriately noted that unemployment insurance schemes should be adapted to the country's level of economic development and labour market characteristics. The inadequate organization of employment services and labour market policies, particularly in Latin America, had contributed to labour market rigidity and lower employment creation. He also wondered whether and how social protection could be financed by international resources.

64. As regards the high-level meeting, he pointed out that different types of crises could have quite different social consequences. In situations like Kosovo, there was in effect no government available to deal with the post-war situation. However, in the case of natural disasters or economic crises, the socio-economic structure of the country remained intact and could therefore also be used in order to reduce the negative social consequences of the crisis. Consideration could be given to preparing separate papers on the consequences of different types of crises.

65. The representative of the Government of Chile felt that the ILO should not concentrate only on national or regional crises, but that soon there might be a need to deal with globalized crises. A first problem when a crisis hit was how to create jobs. It was the State's responsibility to organize housing and public works programmes. His country had faced a negative economic environment over the past few years which had consequences for the financing of social protection. The description of the individual accounts system for unemployment insurance mentioned in paragraph 32 of the paper was not entirely correct, since Parliament was still discussing the possible introduction of this system.

66. The representative of the Government of the Netherlands appreciated the Office paper, which addressed a very important issue for the ILO. She regretted that the Committee was not able to devote more attention to the discussion of this topic.

67. The representative of the Government of Sudan, speaking on behalf of the African Government members, noted that the most important effect of most crises lay in the sphere of employment reduction and the increase of poverty. Another negative impact had been the destruction or weakening of the social and economic fabric of African societies as a result of various crises. The most important policy response to crises were employment-intensive programmes, the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as various local and area-based development projects. Better food aid programmes were needed under the World Food Programme, and more extra-budgetary resources, as well as international financing, should be available to finance such aid in times of crisis.

68. The representative of the Government of China agreed with other speakers that the coverage and level of unemployment benefits should reflect local conditions and the level of economic development. She mentioned China's unemployment insurance system has provided benefits to over 3 million people. Since 1995 the Government had also provided support for the re-employment of unemployed persons in collaboration with trade unions, women's and other organizations of civil society. In total, 4.2 million people had benefited from this system. She encouraged the ILO to undertake further studies on this topic and to hold an international seminar in order to disseminate the results of those studies.

69. The representative of the Government of Cyprus supported the proposal by the representative of the Government of the Netherlands for a more detailed discussion on this topic. The discussion should be linked to the Governing Body discussions on technical cooperation and on the programme and budget. The budget for the Social Security Department should be increased, in particular to provide more technical advice on social security systems. Over the past few years, Cyprus had received much ILO assistance and now had a well-designed system to cope with crisis situations.

70. Mr. Patel (Worker member) referred to a recent symposium where the social protection needs of workers were addressed. The Office should give further thought to the affordability of social protection systems.

71. The representative of the Government of Mexico considered that the debate on social protection should be expanded and continued. A global strategy was needed to prevent crises and to deal with their consequences. Such a strategy included well-developed machinery for tripartite dialogue, labour market policy that included vocational training, and employment-intensive programmes. Such a strategy should also include the promotion of independent entrepreneurship and should be financed by sound economic policies and the mobilization of budgetary and extra-budgetary resources by the ILO.

72. The representative of the Government of Brazil found the ILO report very useful. However, the information concerning Brazil's unemployment insurance scheme in paragraph 33 was not entirely correct, since it was still under discussion in Parliament. In general, unemployment insurance schemes should be complemented by vocational training schemes.

73. Ms. Rozas (Worker member) also supported continuation of the debate in March 2000. The system in Chile could not be characterized as a social security system, since it was basically a set of individual saving schemes, an approach that should not be followed by other countries.

74. The representative of the Government of Switzerland expressed his appreciation of the InFocus Programme on Crisis Response and Reconstruction. In particular, he was impressed by the much shorter lead-time with which the ILO had responded to the crisis in Kosovo. The need for adequate social protection increased when economies were more exposed to international trade. Several studies had shown that countries with well-developed social protection systems had reached high levels of economic growth. Social protection was at the heart of ILO concerns.

75. The representative of the Government of Canada supported the proposal to devote more attention to the discussion of social protection in the Governing Body.

76. A representative of the Director-General (Mr. van Ginneken) stated that social protection schemes were predominantly financed by the contributions of governments, workers and employers because it was in the enlightened interest of all three partners to contribute to such schemes. There were many problems in their management and implementation. However, workers had an interest in unemployment benefit schemes because they provided income security and time to look for a new job. Employers had an interest in such schemes, because as a result workers were more prepared to accept economic restructuring. Governments had an interest because they contributed to overall social stability, which was one of the pillars of economic prosperity.

V. ILO relations with the Bretton Woods institutions

77. A representative of the Director-General (Ms. Ducci) referred to the innovations made in the presentation of the Office paper,(6)  which were intended to facilitate the Committee's work. The paper highlighted the recent political, economic and social background, the main policy developments, and the new window of opportunity for collaboration; specific collaborative activities were listed in the appendix.

78. Critical decisions had been taken in the Interim Committee and the Development Committee to link poverty and debt more closely in the work of the Bank and the Fund through the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Debt Relief Initiative (HIPC), and through the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF), by means of joint action in the preparation of nationally owned Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, which would be the cornerstone of a comprehensive approach to poverty reduction. This was a participatory process that was just starting and would combine economic and financial with social and structural objectives, and would emphasize ex-ante assessments and continuous monitoring of the social impact of economic policies. The new Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF) introduced by the Bank was based on similar priorities and concepts, and together they represented a major step in bringing the approach of the Bretton Woods institutions much closer to that of the ILO.

79. The second area related to action being taken in relation to crisis management and social policy, where the need for a new international social architecture to complement financial and economic structures had been recognized in the Interim and Development Committees. The ILO had participated as an observer in both Committees for the first time this year, and the statements by the Director-General had emphasized the role of the ILO as a strategic partner on account of the central concept of decent work, as well as its knowledge, expertise, tripartism and experience of social dialogue which gave it a valuable role in building, in cooperation with other institutions, an integrated approach that combined economic, financial, trade, development and social issues.

80. There would still be areas of policy divergence between the ILO and the Bretton Woods institutions, but convergence was increasing and there were new opportunities to move forward in analytical work, policy development and operational cooperation. The analysis of convergent and divergent policy directions, gaps and overlaps between the CDF, the PRSP and the promotion of decent work offered a new opportunity for dialogue, cooperation and complementarity in the new policy framework, and a few countries would be selected for pilot initiatives to show how ILO concerns could be addressed and where the ILO's strengths could be demonstrated in this process.

81. The ILO would try to play a leading role in the new international social architecture and to eradicate any residual doubts concerning the impact of core labour standards, and would actively contribute to the development of the principles of good social policy in collaboration with the Bretton Woods institutions and other UN partners in the context of follow-up on the Social Summit.

82. Mr. Patel (Worker member) commended the change in the approach of the Bretton Woods institutions, and noted their renewed commitment to poverty reduction and a new social agenda, as reflected in the decisions recently adopted by the Interim and Development Committees. He agreed that the new window of opportunity should be pursued, and welcomed the new approaches and promises described in paragraph 11 of the paper, but it was too early to see clearly how these would be achieved. The Office should explore the precise changes that could be expected. Concrete details were needed on whether monetary and fiscal policies would be relaxed to permit greater social expenditure, and what targets and time frames were being drawn up, as well as what new approaches would be adopted in such areas as universal social security systems, labour legislation and privatization. Would they support country-specific policy changes that increased social expenditure, and labour legislation which conformed to ILO principles? Greater involvement of workers in the dialogue with the Bretton Woods institutions would strengthen their economic policies. The Workers were concerned by the reference in the paper to residual doubts concerning fundamental labour standards. Rejecting the right to freedom of association was like rejecting democratic elections on the grounds that the wrong party might be elected. The ILO Declaration was an indivisible package endorsed by all member States of the World Bank and IMF, and their response to it would be a key test on the basis of which they would be judged by the Workers.

83. The Employer Vice-Chairperson agreed that increasing cooperation and consultation between the ILO and the international financial institutions was desirable and necessary in the light of the changes and new thinking on their part, but it was important for the respective areas of responsibility of the IFIs and the ILO to be respected. The ILO should not encroach on their areas of responsibility, and reciprocally they should not encroach on the ILO's. He did not support the idea that international labour standards should be introduced into their activities, as these were the responsibility of the ILO and of governments. As the relationship between the ILO and the Bretton Woods institutions developed, the Governing Body should be given a greater opportunity to approve individual initiatives, owing to the degree of sensitivity of the issues involved.

84. The representative of the Government of Germany stressed the need for improved and closer relations with the Bank and the Fund. After Mr. Camdessus' visit to the International Labour Conference in 1991, it had become apparent that cooperation was not developing as well as it might. There was now a fresh opportunity to move forward. ILO involvement in the Bank and Fund annual meetings since 1994 represented good progress. The list of collaborative activities in the appendix to the Office paper was impressive. There had been a tendency to demonize the Bretton Woods institutions, and this should be halted. The Office should be encouraged to continue with approach outlined in the paper.

85. The representative of the Government of Switzerland supported the Office's determination to reach out to the Bretton Woods institutions, as expressed in the paper. Although the ILO was the competent body to set standards, the other international organizations had a responsibility to support them, and this was of great importance to his Government. He fully supported the proposals for further action expressed in the Office paper. ILO participation in the CDF process was welcome, and it was to be hoped that joint work would be reflected to a greater degree in country-level technical cooperation. The work of the International Policy Group should also be supported, and could demonstrate that support for core labour standards and economic development could be pursued at the same time. More continuous information and discussion was needed by the Committee, possibly also in March 2000.

86. The representative of the Government of Japan welcomed the closer relations with the Bretton Woods institutions, which in the present paper were more clearly visible. She drew specific attention to the Joint Seminar on the Economic Crisis, Employment and the Labour Market in East and South-East Asia, described in paragraph 7 of the appendix, which demonstrated the value of bringing the Bank's high level of economic analysis together with the tripartite considerations and social perspectives of the ILO. She fully supported the progress being made in relations with the Bretton Woods institutions, and hoped to receive more information in March if possible.

87. The representative of the Government of the Netherlands welcomed the increased cooperation between the ILO and the Bretton Woods institutions, and associated herself fully with the remarks by the representatives of the Governments of Germany, Switzerland and Japan.

88. The representative of the Government of Malaysia, while welcoming the increased level of cooperation, expressed support for the statement by the Employer Vice-Chairperson concerning the role of the Bretton Woods institutions with respect to the ILO Declaration.

89. The representative of the Government of Sudan, speaking on behalf of the African Government members, referred to the economic and social impact of structural adjustment measures, which had caused African governments to seek support from the ILO. He supported the new relationship with the Bretton Woods institutions and asked that this be further improved and structured around the concept of decent work. The Office paper did not provide details of the development projects of these institutions, and in future more information should be provided on their development programmes and policies, particularly those relating to employment and poverty alleviation. With respect to the debt problem, this was a major burden for the Third World and the least developed countries. The price of debt servicing was paid at the expense of development and of meeting basic needs. The Bretton Woods institutions should take more positive measures in this regard.

90. Mr. Patel (Worker member) supported the remarks concerning debt relief by the representative of the Government of Sudan. As regards the delineation of institutional responsibilities, he drew attention to the Declaration of Philadelphia, which emphasized the ILO's role in relation to the social impact of international economic and financial policies. The Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122), had an additional impact on the ILO's role in this area, and the ILO Declaration provided for the encouragement of other international organizations to lend their support.

VI. Other matters

91. The representative of the Government of the Netherlands observed that the mandate of the Committee was at the heart of the ILO's concerns, yet its discussions were not lively enough. The Governing Body appeared more interested in programme and budget matters and legal issues. The Committee also seemed regularly to run out of time to address its important agenda, partially because the meetings often started late. Discussions should be more lively, focused and structured. The dialogue should be more interactive. She requested Office proposals on this issue.

92. A representative of the Director-General (Mr. Hultin) stated that the Office would welcome a more interactive engagement on a continuous basis between the constituents in the Governing Body and the Office. The Employment Sector would increase the access of Committee members to its work. As the Officers of the Committee would meet the following week, he would raise the issue with them and inform the other members of the results.

93. The Worker Vice-Chairperson supported the comment by the representative of the Government of the Netherlands. The Committee needed at least two days for its meeting, and the Workers' group would continue its efforts to hold its discussions within schedule.

94. The Employer Vice-Chairperson agreed that at least one-and-a-half days would be needed for the Committee's meetings, and he would discuss the issue at the Officers' meeting.

Geneva, 15 November 1999.

1. GB.276/ESP/1.

2. GB.276/ESP/2.

3. GB.276/ESP/3.

4. GB.276/ESP/4/1.

5. GB.276/ESP/4/2.

6. GB.276/ESP/5.

Updated by SA. Approved by NdW. Last update: 6 March 2000.