GENEVA (ILO News) - Nine Heads of State and Government, six Vice-presidents,
labour ministers and leaders from employers and workers organizations are to
meet in Geneva from June 15-17 for a Global Jobs Crisis Summit organized by the
International Labour Organization (ILO).
The ILO summit will provide a first-of-its-kind opportunity to discuss policies
that are being implemented at the national and international level to address
the global jobs crisis.
Among the keynote speakers, nine Heads of State and Governments will address
the ILO summit:
H.E. Mr. Lech Kaczy*ski, President of the Republic of Poland
H.E. Ms Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland
H.E. Mr. Armando Guebuza, President of the Republic of Mozambique
H.E. Mr. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of the Federative Republic of
H.E. Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic
H.E. Ms Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of the Argentine Republic
H.E. Mr. Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, President of the Togolese Republic
H.E. Mr. Tertius Zongo, Prime Minister of Burkina Faso
The Honourable Mr. Bruce Golding, Prime Minister of Jamaica
The three-day ILO summit, which is part of ILOs International Labour
Conference, will include four high-level panels on the following topics: global
and regional coordination, development cooperation, managing the national jobs
agenda and rights at work, social dialogue and enterprise survival.
For more information on the ILO Summit on the Global Jobs Crisis, please visit
www.ilo.org. The International Labour Conference is the world's largest
gathering of governments, employers and workers. It meets every June in Geneva
bringing together approximately 4,000 delegates from ILOs 183 member States.
Each country is represented by a tripartite delegation consisting of government,
employer and worker representatives.
The Conference, which is often called an international parliament of the world
of work, has several main tasks which include the crafting and adoption of
international labour standards and their follow-up and application at the
national level. The conference is also a forum where social and labour questions
of importance to the entire world are discussed.
Questions and answers on the global jobs crisis
More than 4,000 delegates representing governments, employers and workers are
meeting at the annual Conference of the ILO from 3 to 19 June to discuss ways of
addressing the global crisis in jobs and social protection. ILO Online asked
Raymond Torres, Director of the ILO International Institute for Labour Studies
about the current jobs situation, and how decent work policies can tackle the
ILO Online: What is the labour market situation today?
Raymond Torres: Since the onset of the financial crisis, the labour market
situation in most countries has deteriorated dramatically with millions of
workers losing their job over the past 18 months and the outlook continues to
deteriorate. In fact, the overall impact of the crisis is still unfolding and
the ILO expects unemployment to rise further this year. At the same time,
businesses are under stress and the number of bankruptcies is growing.
Vulnerable employment is also increasing, and more people are being pushed into
poverty. What is also of concern is that the shortage of new employment
opportunities is worsening: in 2009, global employment is expected to rise by
between 0 and 1 per cent only. Some regions - including the most developed
countries - are even expected to show a contraction in employment this year. And
in the midst of all this, we will still need to create at least 300 million jobs
globally over the next five years just to maintain a pre-crisis level of
ILO Online: In some quarters, there is a perception that we may be seeing the
first signs of economic recovery. Do you think the worst is over?
Raymond Torres: There may be some signs of recovery - the so-called *green
shoots* - which are welcome developments. But the strength and timing of a
recovery are subject to uncertainty. It is also important to make a clear
distinction between economic recovery and labour market recovery. Judging from
previous crises, we know that employment returned to pre-crisis levels only four
to five years after economic recovery, on average. Long-term unemployment which
takes hold is also very difficult to reverse and wages of workers take time to
return to previous levels. Taken together, all these elements point to a
persistent global jobs crisis for the next few years - unless concerted action
is taken to create new jobs and save existing employment.
ILO Online: What about social protection?
Raymond Torres: As unemployment grows, millions of additional workers are
losing social protection. This problem is particularly acute in developing
countries where social protection is often minimal, but even in emerging
economies and a number of developed countries, coverage is limited in several
areas. According to the ILO's Social Protection Database, the number of people
receiving unemployment benefits increased on average by 53 per cent between May
2008 and February 2009 for a sample of 19 emerging and industrialized countries.
In the OECD countries, including the US, private pension funds lost, on average,
more than 20 per cent of their value in 2008. For four-fifths of the rest of the
world, however, this isn't an issue, as they have no social security or
unemployment benefits at all.
ILO Online: But rescue packages have been introduced in a number of countries;
aren't these measures working?
Raymond Torres: Most developed country governments have put in place a
two-pronged approach to promote economic and employment recovery: targeting
aggregate demand through fiscal stimulus and low interest rates, and targeting
the financial sector to repair balance sheets and restore credit flows. As of
April 2009, 32 countries had announced fiscal stimulus measures (out of a sample
of 40 countries reviewed by ILO). Approximately USD 2 trillion has been
committed globally - with close to 90 per cent from G20 nations. Planned
spending in 2009 accounts for approximately 1.4 per cent of global GDP - notably
less than the 2 per cent global stimulus recommended by the IMF. But the
economic outlook for 2009 and 2010 has deteriorated significantly since these
measures were designed and implemented Furthermore, employment and social
policies represent only 10 to 15% of the total stimulus packages. While it is
commendable that countries have announced and implemented stimulus efforts,
there needs to be additional focus on employment and social measures in order to
address the human dimensions of the crisis and mitigate the adverse impact on
people and families.
ILO Online: How will all this affect individuals and societies?
Raymond Torres: We have already seen signs of social unrest stemming from
economic malaise because of the crisis. The consequences for personal and family
well-being, the welfare of societies, the stability of nations, and the
credibility of national and multilateral governance are incalculable. Not enough
attention has been paid to this human reality in policy-making. We must approach
the crisis with a basic sense of solidarity within and among countries, and pay
adequate attention to the human dimension, as the G20 in London has called for.
ILO Online: What are the ILO proposals to be examined at the International
Raymond Torres: Right now we need to focus on two key objectives: employment
creation and social protection. These two elements need to be at the heart of
recovery efforts. These are the basic elements of the Global Jobs Pact which the
Director-General of the ILO is proposing for discussion at the annual
Conference. As the Director-General said in his opening address (3 June) to the
Conference, a global jobs pact would imply a commitment by the ILO tripartite
constituency to make employment and social protection a central element of all
economic and social policies. It implies tackling the crisis with a productive
vision of promoting investment and enterprises, social protection and job
creation and an agreement on common policy approaches, eventually leading to
national and international programmes.
ILO Online: So what*s next?
Raymond Torres: We are at a defining moment. The Conference will discuss these
issues - a Jobs Summit on 15-17 June will bring the voices of heads of state and
government, vice presidents, ministers of labour, worker and employer leaders
and other top economic and labour experts into the equation. And when all is
said and done, as the Director-General has made clear, much will depend on the
success of overall economic and social policies and stimulus packages adopted by
countries and a functioning financial sector. Our immediate task is to fashion a
strong tripartite agreement on a Decent Work Response. We believe that putting
people first has to be the priority.