June 22, 2009

Nigeria, others adopt global jobs pact

By Funmi Komolafe
GENEVA—Faced with  a global unemployment crisis that could linger for about six to eight years, members of the ILO including Nigeria,  at the end of the 98th International Labour Conference adopted a Global Jobs Pact designed to guide national and international policies towards stimulating economic recovery and  generating jobs.

The Pact also urged members “to retain persons in employment, to sustain enterprises and to accelerate employment creation and jobs recovery.”

It is also designed to provide protection for  working people and their families.

Speaking at the end of the ILC at the weekend in Geneva, ILO Director-General, Mr. Juan Somavia, said, “Urgent action is required now to boost economic recovery and job creation whilst preparing for a greener, more balanced, fairer and sustainable global economy.

“This pact provides a path crafted together by all members of the ILO and based on tried and tested policies,” he added.

The Global Jobs Pact was adopted following strong support voiced during a three-day ILO Global Jobs Summit by heads of state and government, vice-presidents and ministers of labour, worker and employer representatives and other leaders.

The summit also provided strong support for an enhanced involvement of the ILO in the G20, in follow-up to its meeting in London last April which, with regard to employment and social protection, called on the ILO “working with other relevant organizations, to assess the actions taken and those required for the future.”

The director-general told delegates, “It is you, the actors of the real economy, that are going to take us out of this crisis.

“You  represent workers and families, employers and enterprises, and governments. World leaders have told us that change is needed, combining broad opportunity, jobs, protection of working people with the type of investment and growth that will create a long-term solution to this crisis. This is our challenge for today, our mandate for the future.”

The Global Jobs Pact uanimously adopted by 183 member-countries of the ILO including Nigeria is regarded as  the most urgent and wide-ranging response to an economic crisis ever adopted by the ILO, which marks its 90th anniversary this year.

It called  on governments and organizations representing workers and employers to work together to collectively tackle the global jobs crisis through policies in line with the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda.

The pact was adopted against a backdrop of a recent report by the ILO showing an unprecedented increase in unemployment globally and a persistence of very high levels of poverty.

Mr. Somavia said the ILO estimated that even if an economic recovery began to take hold this year or the next, a global jobs crisis could linger for six to eight years. He also said that with 45 million new entrants to the global jobs market annually – most of them young women and men – the global economy would have to create some 300 million new jobs over the next five years just to go back to pre-crisis levels of unemployment.

The Conference also held an intense round of debates on the role of enterprise, employment policies, social protection, labour rights, social dialogue, development cooperation and regional coordination in addressing the jobs crisis.

The Global Jobs Pact proposed a range of crisis-response measures that countries can adapt to their specific needs and situation. It is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but a portfolio of options based on successful examples, also designed to inform and support action at the multilateral level..

The Pact also calls for the construction of a “stronger, more globally consistent supervisory and regulatory framework for the financial sector, so that it serves the real economy, promotes sustainable enterprises and decent work and better protects the savings and pensions of people.”

It also urges cooperation to promote “efficient and well-regulated trade and markets that benefit all” and avoid protectionism. It further urges a shift to a low-carbon, environmentally-friendly economy that will help accelerate a jobs recovery.

The Pact urged governments to consider options such as public infrastructure investment, special employment programmes, broadening of social protection and minimum wages. Particularly in developing countries, such measures can reduce poverty, increase demand and contribute to economic stability. Donor countries and multilateral agencies are called on to consider providing funding, including existing crisis resources for the implementation of the Pact’s recommendations and policy options.

Mr. Daniel Funes de Rioja, Employer Vice-Chairperson, Committee of the Whole on Crisis Responses said “Employers support the Global Jobs Pact, as a significant contribution to the policy responses necessary for recovery,” .”The joint global efforts of employers, trade unions and governments have identified realistic and practical approaches to addressing this crisis. Having agreed on the Global Jobs Pact the hard work now begins”.

He said, “ The challenge to the ILO, trade unions and employers, and most particularly governments, is to now translate this commitment into measures at national level which generate real jobs, real incomes and contribute to economic recovery. Employers stand ready to play our part.”

Leroy Trotman, Worker Vice-Chairperson of the Committee of the Whole on Crisis Response. in his comments said, “We are sending a message of vision, change and realism to governments and to the women and man in the street, said “Today the Jobs Pact is only a piece of paper. We governments, workers and employers have to make it a reality. This includes a commitment of governments to social dialogue and strong labour market institutions.

Recovery requires a wage-led increase in aggregate demand, social protection and social dialogue, and collective bargaining. But it also means no interference by employers, when workers organise themselves and represent their interests collectively. If we fail societies will lose. If we succeed, I am convinced future historians will say: the ILO lived up to its mandate.”

On the role of the ILO in the implementation of the Global Jobs Pact, Mr. Somavia said the ILO would immediately begin to provide assistance to constituents wanting to implement measures under the Pact as well as work with other multilateral agencies. He also stressed that the Pact is not about how much more governments can spend, but how they spend it.

“We need to give life to this commitment,” said Mr. Somavia. “We all have a collective responsibility to the future. Together we can make good on our common aspirations. We have a mandate to act now, and working together we will certainly succeed.”