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Monday, March 02, 2009

Economic Crisis Response Must Support Jobs, Smes, Vulnerable Sector, ILO Meeting Concludes

Delegates representing workers, employers and ministries of finance, planning and labour from Asia and the Pacific suggested policies and measures to be urgently put in place to mitigate the expected severe impact of the global financial and economic crisis on economies in the region, and to stimulate a more rapid, more equitable and sustainable recovery.

Delegates from 11 countries participated in a three-day, high-level regional forum in Manila, called to analyse the global downturn and identify critical policy responses and practical measures. Officials from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), other UN agencies, academics and foreign diplomats also attended.

Of concern for countries were sectors dependent on exports and remittances and the knock on effect of decline to other economic sectors and to the most vulnerable and poorest. Potential loss of jobs and threats to decent work affecting many millions in the region was the central preoccupation of forum participants. Capacity to address this through stimulus packages was particularly worrying in countries with limited fiscal space or reserves to call upon.

An effective response to the unfolding large scale crisis requires a global financial system guaranteeing stability, security and fairness for all. Participants highlighted that governmental and international action had to be coordinated and coherent. Economic stimulus packages needed to be comprehensive and target job preservation and creation and social protection as central to sustainable recovery and growth.

Practical measures called for included:
- Protecting and supporting decent jobs;
- Collective bargaining and social dialogue particularly in negotiating flexible hours, wages, temporary lay-offs and severance packages;
- Rolling out quickly infrastructure and labour-intensive public works projects, to keep men and women in work, particularly those retrenched;- Enterprise support measures including access to credit to focus particularly on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs.
- Targeting support to specific sectors such as the rural andagricultural economy, and for vulnerable groups of workers - international and internal migrants, informal sector workers, women and young people;
- International and regional support to include funding for developing countries and easing of conditionality in funding from international financial institutions: The ILO to help mobilise development partners and actors to support the above priority measures, to strengthen regional co-operation in responding to the crisis and reduce barriers to trade and commerce, and to build capacities for national, regional and international policy coherence for growth, employment and decent work.

”A strong message came from the meeting that national, regional and international responses must be coherent and coordinated, and that they must take into account social factors as well as economic factors,” said Sachiko Yamamoto, ILO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.”The crisis is severe and we haven*t seen the worst of it. The poorest and most vulnerable could be severely hit by its brutality as it spreads. To be effective, we must ensure that assistance reaches all levels of society and economies.”

”This is the first major crisis in the era of globalization and it needs a global response; the ILO has an important role to play in developing that response,” she added. “The decent work agenda and social dialogue in particular, has never been more important. We must keep talking and not compound our problems by relinquishing gains that have been made, such as the minimum wage and fundamental rights andstandards.”

The high-level forum, “Responding to the Economic Crisis – Coherent Policies for Growth, Employment and Decent Work in Asia and the Pacific,” was convened by the International Labour Organization to discuss the effect the crisis is having on countries and their workers.
The forum was organized with the collaboration of the ADB and the Department of Labour and Employment of the Philippines, and with the support of the Government of Norway. It is one of a series of regional events whose outcomes feed into a high-level meeting on the economic crisis, called by the ILO’s Governing Body.

The global meeting involving international financial organizations and the UN system will take place at the ILO in Geneva on March 23, 2009.

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