Representatives of governments, workers and employers from the Asian, Pacific and Arab states have concluded a four-day meeting at which they discussed ways the region could prepare to counter the consequences of the current economic uncertainty.
In conclusions adopted at the close of the ILO’s 15th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM), delegates agreed that employment and support for decent work must be at the heart of policies for strong, sustainable, balanced growth and development.
They called for policy packages (based on the ILO’s Global Jobs Pact) to promote equitable, jobs-rich growth. Essential to this would be the involvement of the ILO’s tripartite constituents — governments, workers’ and employers’ organisations —effective social dialogue and the promotion of collective bargaining. Increased productivity should be the foundation for improved living and working conditions, rising incomes and more decent work opportunities.
Measures to improve preparedness to deal with a deteriorating global economic situation include support for sustainable enterprises and employment-intensive investment, development of minimum wage systems, the building of effective social protection floors, promoting greener growth and green jobs, and policies to address issues relating to youth employment and labour migration.
The APRM also looked at ways that employment and social policies can be applied to relieve the effects off natural disasters, to which the Asia Pacific region is particularly prone.
Delegates thanked the Japanese Government for organizing a special session on this topic, which allowed them to share knowledge and draw important lessons on disaster response and employment policy.
The meeting also hosted the Asian launch of the Bachelet Report, “Social Protection Floor for a Fair and Inclusive Globalisation”, presented by one of the members of the Advisory Group Member Secretary of the Planning Commission of India Sudha Pillai. “Building effective social protection floors, in line with national circumstances” was among the priorities identifed in the APRM conclusions.
“This region has been the world’s most dynamic region, economically, but we have not been getting enough jobs, decent work, from this growth,” said Sachiko Yamamoto, ILO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. “Most developing economies in the region have working age populations that are growing fast, but often we only see one to two per cent employment growth for six to seven per cent of output growth. So if output growth drops below six per cent the region will not be producing enough jobs to meet the needs of those looking for work, particularly young people.”
“Even before the current turmoil this growth was unevenly shared and inequalities were increasing. This inequality threatens economic and social progress if it is not addressed,” she added.
The tripartite partners noted the links between recent developments in some Arab countries and the consequences of social exclusion, lack of decent jobs and the denial of fundamental rights. They recognised the importance of the Decent Work Agenda in addressing widespread demands for social justice, dignity, decent jobs, respect for fundamental rights and an end to economic exclusion. They agreed to intensify efforts to ratify and implement core labour standards.
"This is a dynamic region facing huge challenges. To ensure that decent work and full employment are at the heart of sustainable development will be a key." Said ILO regional director for the Arab States Nada Al-Nashif.
“Our region needs growth that can deliver more and better jobs and to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected as they work their way out of poverty and informality. Social dialogue and effective cooperation, bringing together workers', employers' and governments, must be our watchwords for fulfilling these goals and meeting the aspirations of the youth of today and our future generations”.
More than 410 delegates, representing governments, workers and employers, from 38 countries attended the 15th APRM, which was opened by Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihiko Noda and ILO director general Juan Somavia.
Other keynote speakers included vice prime minister of Timor Leste Dr Jose Luis Guterres, director general of the Arab Labour Organisation Dr Ahmed Luqman and, secretary general of ASEAN Dr Surin Pitsuwan.
The ILO is the UN specialised agency dealing with work and work-related issues. It has a unique tripartite membership structure, under which governments, employers' and workers' organisations act as equal partners, making decisions representative of the real economy.