Let me first of all thank the Secretary-General for his very useful report to this meeting (CN.5/2007/2). The report not only presents useful factual information, but also brings important political observations to our attention.
I would particularly highlight the message in paragraph 120, where the Secretary-General points out that there should be better regulation of global production systems to arrest the possibility of a “race to the bottom” in labour standards.
At the Social Summit in Copenhagen all UN member states committed themselves to make full employment, a basic priority of economic and social policy. Today, twelve years later, we must admit that we have not succeeded.
The past decade has seen a steady increase in unemployment levels. According to the latest report from the International Labour Organization, it now stands at an historic high, just under 200 million people, up from 140 million at the time of the Copenhagen Summit. In addition, more than half a billion people remain working poor, surviving on less than 2 dollars a day.
Politically, it is crucial to note that this depressing development has taken place during a period of unprecedented liberalization, deregulation, privatization and strong emphasis on macro-economic stability, resulting in much desired increase in international trade, investment and integrated production systems.
In short, the past decade of desired globalization has also been the decade of jobless growth.
We must acknowledge and urgently address this side-effect of globalization. And here let me quote the Millennium Declaration: “… while globalization offers great opportunities, at present its benefits are very unevenly shared, while its costs are unevenly distributed”.
In other words, we are facing a challenge of distribution – not only between rich and poor countries, which is usually the subject of our debates, but also distribution between different groups and generations, regardless of citizenship.
This is increasingly true in the labour market, which is rapidly becoming globalized due to outsourcing and migration.
Ten years after Copenhagen, and as a result of globalization, the labour market both nationally, regionally and globally is first and foremost characterized by rapid change.
More than ever transitions are crucial for people’s employability: Transition from school to work, from one job to another, from work to pension, and increasingly also from one country to another.
The most pressing requirement, both on individuals, on companies and on governments, is therefore a better ability to manage change.
In addition to taking active measures to ensure gender equality in the labour market, governments should pay particular attention to youth employment, the balance of work force flexibility and job security, pension reform and migration.
To date, the most comprehensive analysis of these challenges, and a very important contribution to addressing them, has been made by the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, established at the initiative of ILO’s Director General and president of the Copenhagen Summit, Mr. Juan Somavia.
Besides identifying and explaining the crucial role of functioning states and good governance at the national level, the report of the World Commission stresses the importance of better governance also at the global level, underscoring the indispensable role of the United Nations.
For while the primary responsibility for good governance and development rests with national governments, we must acknowledge that in the age of globalization decisions taken domestically in one country may also have ramifications for other countries, both regionally and globally.
Therefore, the way labour markets are run in one country is no longer a purely domestic issue.
A number of intergovernmental organizations have been established to deal with different global challenges, among them the WTO, the ILO, the World Bank, the IMF and the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights.
We must ensure that these organizations are pulling in the same direction, to stop them from working at cross purposes, which can sometimes be the case, according to the World Commission’s report.
To ensure a better balance of economic and social objectives, not least full employment, there is a need for improved and more coherent governance, also at the global level.
We appreciate how the importance of better governance for Decent Work has been acknowledged by the international community, both in Paragraph 47 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document and more recently, by the ECOSOC Ministerial Declaration from 2006.
We welcome a prominent role for the ILO in our joint delivery on these commitments.
With its emphasis on full employment, workers’ rights, social dialogue and social protection, the ILO is an obvious partner for policymakers, both at the national and the global level, to make Decent Work not only a global goal – but a reality.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.