As the global economy grapples with the second wave of recession, the employment and labour ministers of the G20 nations met in Paris on 26-27 September 2011 to discuss how to address the challenges created by the financial crisis. In a statement addressed to the G20 meeting, Ms Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), said: “When 75 per cent of workers across the globe have no social protection, this is an economic as well as a social disaster and no more than now in times of great transitions.”
Ms Burrow reiterated that income-led growth, wages and collective bargaining are important economic tools in tackling both inequity and generating demand. She also emphasised that workers’ rights are both social and economic tools, expressing her concern over attacks by multinational enterprises on these fundamental rights, pointing out: “In Europe, labour rights are under attack as the governments have been trying to strip away collective bargaining rights, which are critical for increasing wages, generating demand and recovery.” She went on to state that: “If boosting the economy is the problem G20 leaders are most worried about, jobs and social protection are the solution.”
John Evans, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC) said: “Targeted investment in social spending such as health, infrastructure and green jobs will create jobs in the real economy … 110 million jobs are needed over next five years just to return to pre-crisis employment levels, yet with the new round of crisis, we risk seeing jobs being destroyed again unless action is taken to change policy.”
The Global Unions have also called upon G20 employment and labour ministers to:
- Ensure that political leaders put employment as the central government priority.
- Insist that their governments develop alternative sources of finance to provide funding for employment policies, including making domestic taxation more progressive, combating tax evasion and tax havens, introducing a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT) and “Eurobonds”" for the Eurozone.
- Ensure that rising income inequality is reversed by strengthening systems of collective bargaining and minimum wages.
- Set up investment in infrastructure and “green” jobs, skills development and other active labour market policies.
- Launch a G20 “Youth Pact” guaranteeing young people quality employment or education and skills development.
- Establish a G20 Working Group on employment and social protection.
- Increase training opportunities, in particular work place-based training.
- Tackle under-investment in skills, development and training by the private sector through the implementation of train-or-pay levy/grant schemes to encourage employers to increase their levels of investment and commitment.
Addressing the G20 meeting on behalf of International Labour Organization (ILO) and the OECD, ILO Director General Mr Juan Somavia referred to a special joint report by the ILO and OECD produced specifically for the meeting, entitled “Short-term employment and labour market outlook and key challenges in G20 countries”. The report provides a statistical update of the situation in the G20 countries and aims to review the most recent employment and labour market trends in a period of highly differentiated recovery from the global downturn, and highlight key structural issues in G20 labour markets and the policy challenges to address them. It shows that all G20 countries are facing substantial labour market challenges to promote productive employment and decent work opportunities for all.
In his comments on the report, Mr Somavia said: “The report … shows that [the G20] group of developing and developed nations had seen 20 million jobs disappear since the financial crisis in 2008 ... Employment creation has to become a top macro-economic priority, however employment growth of less than 1 per cent cannot be excluded given the slowdown of the world economy and the anaemic growth foreseen in several G20 countries. Should employment grow at a rate of 0.8 per cent until the end of 2012, now a distinct possibility, then the shortfall in employment would increase by some 20 million to a total of 40 million in G20 countries.”
Expressing grave concern on rising unemployment worldwide, Global March Chairperson Mr Kailash Satyarthi pointed out that unemployed parents and those living below the poverty line more often than not compel their children to work to ensure family survival. Poor enforcement of labour laws and denial of decent working conditions also impact negatively on children of the working poor as they tend to be withdrawn from school and pushed into work. Mr Satyarthi said: “Global March is extremely concerned that if appropriate socio-economic responses are not implemented as soon as possible, the deepening global crisis will lead to a significant increase in the number of child labourers worldwide.”
Echoing the concerns raised by the ITUC, TUAC, the Global Unions and the ILO and OECD, Mr Satyarthi underscored the need for national leaders to urgently develop alternative sources of finance for funding employment, quality public services and other social priorities while addressing public sector deficits. He also called upon the G20 nations to ratify and implement the core international labour conventions of the ILO to ensure the alignment of their national policy and legislative frameworks. In closing, he commented: “Increased efforts by governments to create job opportunities and instituting decent working conditions for workers would in the long run help develop sustainable economies and ensure that children can benefit from dignified and fulfilled childhoods and be where they should be, in school.”
To read the comments by the ITUC General Secretary to the G20 meeting, click here
To read the Global Unions’ statement to the G20 meeting, click here
To read ILO press statement on the G20 meeting, click here
To download the Joint ILO-OECD report produced for the G20 meeting, click here