|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Economic and Social Council
2012 Substantive Session
13th & 14th Meetings (AM & PM)
Jobs Crisis, Shaky Global Economy Create ‘Policy Moment’ for United Nations,
Economic and Social Council Told as It Opens 2012 High-level Segment
President Says Sustained Growth, Job Creation Must Top Political Agenda;
Council Opens Annual Ministerial Review on Decent Work, Poverty Eradication
For the world’s 205 million unemployed, finding work was difficult amid a slow economic recovery and rigid labour markets, conditions that presented an opportunity for the Economic and Social Council to sharpen its focus on youth, integrate its development efforts and advocate for a decisive multilateralism that benefited the most marginalized, Miloš Koterec, President of the 54-member body, said today.
The Council’s session, running until 27 July, features a week-long high-level segment that includes the annual ministerial review, this year on the theme: “Promoting productive capacity and decent work to eradicate poverty in the context of inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth at all levels for achieving the Millennium Development Goals". The Review kicked off today with five of eight scheduled countries making their national voluntary presentations on progress in achieving agreed development goals: the Russian Federation, Algeria, Brazil, Ecuador and Ukraine.
In opening remarks, Mr. Koterec of Slovakia said that while the world had seen the transformative power of economic growth lift millions of people out of poverty, the failure to manage global job creation and sustain growth had inflicted tremendous damage everywhere, and it was the poor who suffered most. Just as more people confronted a worsening jobs picture, a thriving minority had benefited from the intense competition for talent, with pay for top performers soaring to an ever-larger multiple of the average worker’s salary.
“Such sweeping changes pose huge challenges to Governments, employers and workers alike,” he said, stressing that sustainable growth and job creation must rise to — and remain — at the top of the political agenda everywhere. “The United Nations is no exception.” For its part, the Council was doing more to integrate its development work by choosing cross-cutting annual themes that laid the groundwork for each subsequent year: education in 2011; employment in 2012; and science, technology, innovation and culture in 2013. But there was “immense” room for improvement.
He urged delegates to imagine a future substantive session spread out across the year — but more focused and impactful. He challenged the Council to examine priorities for aligning the work of its subsidiary bodies and to “be bold” in rethinking agendas and working methods.
In his remarks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that only by generating decent — and decently paid — employment could the poor be aided in escaping poverty and building resilience. “Recovery is not just a matter of macroeconomic adjustment,” he stressed. “It is a development issue”. The long-term solution was to pursue a new growth model within the framework for sustainable development and enhanced international cooperation. Momentum must be seized from last week’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — or “Rio+20” — to make decent work for the poor and marginalized a priority.
At that summit, he said, Governments had strengthened their political commitment to sustainable development by agreeing to establish universal Sustainable Development Goals to build on advances made under the Millennium Development Goals. In that vein, he would count on the Economic and Social Council for advice, leadership and action. “We need an agenda that is focused on poverty eradication, inclusive development, environmental sustainability and peace and security for all,” he said.
“This is a moment for policy leadership by the United Nations,” said Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), who was one of five senior officials to deliver keynote addresses to the meeting. An old growth model was giving way to a new vision of inclusive growth and globalization that had yet to be shaped. The interim period of uncertainty also provided a window for creativity on the part of the Organization and Governments. Recasting national policies to achieve quality growth would require blending macroeconomic and employment policies, trade and development policies, and social and environmental policies. Moreover, “we must ensure the Council is fully equipped — technically and politically — to take up the challenge of policy leadership,” he said.
The time was also ripe for the Group of Twenty (G20) to take action, said Sharan Burrow, of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), in her keynote address. While leaders at the G20 meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, had expressed a priority focus on jobs with rights, it was left to them to heed the calls as they chose. “This is not the coordination we need,” she said. Labour participants had called for coordinated investment in infrastructure, a scaling up of quality apprenticeships and for the Group’s Employment Task Force to engage with unions on tools to shrink the informal sector. Further, workers wanted the $25 trillion they had invested in the global economy to be used as “patient” capital, rather than for speculative activity.
General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser also delivered opening remarks in which he expressed hope that the high-level segment would send a strong message to the international community about the Organization’s commitment to the creation of quality jobs and decent work, productivity development, and the strengthening of international cooperation.
Also delivering keynote addresses were Erkki Tuomioja, Foreign Minister of Finland; Tan Sri Dato’ Azman Shah Haron, President of the International Organization of Employers; and Danielle Fong, Chief Science Officer and Co-Founder of LightSail Energy.
The Council began its work this morning hearing reports from the various preparatory meetings on the theme of the ministerial review. Joe Nakano, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, presented the outcome of the Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting, held in Kyoto, Japan, on 7 December 2011. In addition, Ahmed Shide, State Minister of Finance and Economic Development of Ethiopia, presented the outcome of the African Regional Meeting, held in Addis Ababa on 25 March 2012; and Eduardo Brenta, Minister of Labour and Social Security of Uruguay, presented the outcome of the Latin America and Caribbean Regional Meeting, held in Montevideo, Uruguay, on 27 April 2012.
Following those updates, Faruk Çelik, Minister of Labour and Social Security of Turkey, delivered a presentation on the National Consultation on Youth Employment in 11 European countries. David Arkless, President of Corporate and Government Affairs of the Manpower Group, spoke about the Partnership Event on “Breaking New Ground: Partnerships for More and Better Jobs for Youth People”, held in New York on 27 February 2012.
When the floor was opened for the annual ministerial review, Conny Czymoch, anchor of Phoenix Television in Germany, moderated discussions between participants and senior officials of three of the five Governments making their National Voluntary Presentations today: Vitaly F. Kolbanov, Director, Department of Analyses and Prognosis of Health Development and Social and Labour Spheres, Ministry of Health and Social Development of the Russian Federation; Rabah Hadid, on behalf of Abdelkader Messahel, African Affairs Minister of Algeria; and Mario Barbosa, Special Advisor to the Minister of Labour and Employment of Brazil.
In the afternoon, José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Director, Employment Sector, of the International Labour Organization (ILO), moderated two presentations, as Fander Falconi, Minister of National Planning for Development of Ecuador, and Vasyl Nadraga, Deputy Minister for Social Policy of Ukraine, discussed national reports on behalf of their respective Governments.
In other business, the Council approved the proposed work programme for its 2012 substantive session (document E/2012/L.5)
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 3 July, for a high-level policy dialogue with the international financial and trade institutions on current developments in the world economy. It is also due to begin its general debate.
The Economic and Social Council today opened the five-day high-level segment of its annual substantive session, which will run at Headquarters until 27 July.
Set to focus on a range of issues relevant to implementation of the United Nations development agenda, the high-level segment will feature the annual ministerial review, from 2 to 3 July, in which delegates will discuss “Promoting productive capacity, employment and decent work to eradicate poverty in the context of inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth at all levels for achieving the Millennium Development Goals”.
The review will include national voluntary presentations on progress by nine Member States in implementing internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. Presenting their reports today are the Russian Federation, Brazil, Ecuador and Ukraine.
The high-level segment will also feature the Development Cooperation Forum, from 5 to 6 July, in which participants will review trends and promote coherence and effectiveness in international development cooperation.
Opening the high-level segment, MILOŠ KOTEREC (Slovakia), President of the Economic and Social Council, said much had changed since 1946, when the Council held its first session, but in many ways, the challenges remained the same — and they were no less daunting.
“Work is a foundation of life: sustaining us and, hopefully, challenging and rewarding us too,” he said. Yet, for today’s 205 million unemployed, work is worryingly difficult to find — and finding decent, meaningful work, harder still. The causes of the global jobs crisis were as varied as the jobs were scarce. Most immediately, recovery from the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression had been slow, weighed down by painful deleveraging, sovereign debt woes and rigid labour markets.
Globalization and technological innovation, meanwhile, were reshaping the world economy, he said, with significant implications for jobs and unemployment rates in the short-run. The argument that, in many rich economies, the “natural rate” of unemployment was now significantly higher than only a few years ago was incomplete. Just as more people confronted a worsening jobs picture, a thriving minority were, nonetheless, benefiting from the intensifying global competition for talent. As a result, pay for top performers had soared to an ever larger multiple of the average worker’s salary.
“Such sweeping changes pose huge challenges to Governments, employers and workers alike,” he said. Those and other related issues would consume the Council’s attention over the next week. From Beijing to Bangalore, the world had witnessed the transformative power of economic growth and job creation to lift hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty in record time. While failure to manage global job creation and sustain growth inflicted tremendous damage everywhere, it was the world’s poorest who suffered most. For such reasons, sustainable growth and job creation must rise to — and remain — at the top of the political agenda everywhere. “The United Nations is no exception,” he said.
For its part, the Council was sharpening its focus on youth unemployment, he said, while encouraging young people to the stakeholder table. He had been heartened by their response: some 1,000 attendees — a majority in their teens, twenties and thirties — had turned out for the Council’s inaugural Youth Forum. Another powerful message had also emerged from preparations for the annual ministerial review: that all countries faced unique employment challenges, even as the quest for sustainable growth, job creation and decent work was universal.
The Council was also doing more to integrate its development work, he said, choosing cross-cutting annual themes that laid the groundwork for each subsequent year: education in 2011; employment in 2012; and science, technology, innovation and culture in 2013. As for sustainable development, he welcomed the commitment at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — “Rio+20” — to strengthen the Council as the principal organ in the follow-up of all conferences and summits. Rio+20 had unequivocally recognized the Council’s key role in the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development. That role included the Council’s entire system, and all subsidiary bodies must be geared up to pursue sustainable development.
In that context, he said the universal intergovernmental forum was meant for political engagement, a function which was not meant to create “supra structures” nor a parallel system. “We should improve the current system,” he said, adding there was “immense” room for improvement. He urged the Council to press on by imagining a future substantive session spread out across the year — neither shorter nor longer in aggregate — but more focused and impactful. He also urged the Council to examine priorities for aligning the work of all subsidiary bodies and to “be bold” by rethinking agendas and working methods.
An effective post-2015 development agenda must be based on streamlined development cooperation, he said, as well as targeted and improved financing, transparency and accountability. The Council’s third Development Cooperation Forum — to be held this week — would encourage precisely that: sharing lessons learned, promoting best practices and bringing together key stakeholders. In fact, the entire week would bring the opportunity to help create jobs, make development more sustainable and advocate for decisive multilateralism that placed the Council in its natural leadership role in supporting global development efforts.
“We meet under the shadow of continued global uncertainty,” said United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON. Following the global economic and financial crisis, a modest recovery in some countries should not disguise the “precarious” state of the world economy, and he added that people around the world remained concerned about jobs, fairness and opportunities. In fact, he said, “recovery is not just a matter of macroeconomic adjustment, it is a development issue”. In that regard, the long-term solution was to pursue a new model of growth within the framework of sustainable development and enhanced international cooperation.
Calling the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or “Rio+20” — which closed one week ago in Brazil — a “victory for multilateral cooperation”, he stressed that it was now imperative to build on that momentum. High on the list of priorities were decent jobs and predictable and stable incomes for city dwellers, small farmers and the poor and marginalized alike. Only by generating decent, and decently paid, employment could the poor and vulnerable be aided in escaping the traps of poverty and in building resilience.
With the unveiling today of the 2012 Millennium Development Goals Report, it was clear, he said, that there was considerable reason for encouragement, in particular as the world looked forward to defining a post-2015 development framework. The number of people living in extreme poverty had been reduced by half — well ahead of the Millennium Development Goal schedule — and millions of lives had been saved thanks to improvement in child survival, the expansion of HIV treatment and other strides in the area of health. Between 1990 and 2010, more than 2 billion people gained access to improved sources of water, and living conditions had improved for more than 200 million slum-dwellers around the world. Those, along with other achievements, represented “a tremendous reduction in human suffering”, he said, and “they are a clear validation of the approach embodied by the Millennium Development Goals”.
However, he emphasised, those strides “are not a reason to relax”. Success remained uneven within countries and regions, and projections indicated that in 2015 more than 600 million people worldwide would still lack access to improved water sources, almost 1 billion would be living in dire poverty, and hunger would remain a global challenge. Meanwhile, biodiversity loss continued apace and greenhouse gas emissions continued to pose a threat to people and ecosystems.
In Rio, Governments had renewed and strengthened their political commitments to sustainable development, he said, thereby providing a foundation for building “the future we want”. Among the most significant achievements at that summit was the agreement to launch a process to establish universal Sustainable Development Goals, or “SDGs”, which would build on advances made under the Millennium Goals. “We need an agenda that is concrete, action-oriented and focused on poverty eradication, inclusive economic and social development, environmental sustainability and peace and security for all,” he said. In that vein, he would count on the Economic and Social Council for advice, leadership and action.
General Assembly President NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar) said that in the wake of the global financial and economic crisis, and related jobs crisis, it was most appropriate for the Council to focus on productive capacity, employment and decent work.
“These issues are of great importance to the well-being of our societies and to the stability of our political systems,” he said. Unemployment — especially of women, youth and disadvantaged groups — was among the biggest challenges. International Labour Organization (ILO) forecasts suggested a further increase in global unemployment to 200 million this year, of which 75 million would be young people and 84 million would be women.
Against that backdrop, he had conducted high-level debates on disaster risk reduction, commodity prices, the state of the world economy and “the Road to Rio and Beyond” to address such issues. Among the key messages was that both developed and developing countries had been adversely affected by global challenges. “We can only make the much-needed transition to a more sustainable development paradigm when we work on delivering stable economies, decent jobs, well-managed environments and opportunities for all,” he said.
He urged the Council to work harder and in close collaboration with the General Assembly to tackle pressing issues. Inclusive, equitable growth and full employment were crucial to eradicating poverty, achieving the Millennium Goals and realizing long-term outcomes. How could countries best provide effective social safety nets in times of need? How could they deal with the effects of the global employment crisis, and make their economic growth more inclusive and equitable?
Such issues would be addressed in the annual ministerial review, he said. For over 60 years, the Council had been the forum where States could collectively address global development challenges. The strength of the Council — and its subsidiary bodies — had always been in their broad representation. The Council’s importance in the formulation of development policies was not in doubt and he commended its work to become more effective.
At the Rio+20 Conference, he said, international consensus had emerged and agreement was reached in important areas of sustainable development. The outcome document — The Future We Want — recognized the importance of shared responsibilities. “These agreements must inform future actions,” he said, stressing that implementation was important if States were to attain the future they wanted.
“The real work begins now,” he said, urging everyone to play their parts to achieve ultimate success. The General Assembly, as the most universal United Nations body, would continue to play a central role in achieving sustainable development goals beyond 2015. The Council was an important forum for implementing the Rio outcome document, and well-placed to integrate the pillars of sustainable development. It was also best-suited for building partnerships, especially with the private sector, academia and civil society. With that, he expressed hope that the high-level segment would send a strong message about the commitment to the creation of quality jobs and decent work, productivity development, and the strengthening of international cooperation.
ERKKI TUOMIOJA, Foreign Minister of Finland, speaking on behalf of President Sauli Niinisto, stressed the need to secure strong and balanced economic growth, but said that “growth alone is not enough.” It should generate development within the boundaries of nature’s carrying capacity. “We are facing several environmental crises […] all stemming from the current growth model’s inability to respect the boundaries of nature,” he said. With ongoing climate change, the accelerating loss of biodiversity and current other changes, only a few decades time was left to reach ecologically, socially and economically sustainable development.
“No one can be certain that we can do this, or even that it is possible at all,” he said. These issues had been addressed at Rio+20, but a great deal of work had been left to be completed later, making follow-up vital. The decision at Rio regarding the Sustainable Development Goals had the potential to bring sustainable development genuinely to the core of broader United Nations policy. Therefore it was vitally important that the Sustainable Development Goals process was seen as an essential part of the larger post-2015 framework.
The European Union had actively been advocating the concept of “green economy” — an economic system aimed at strengthening human well-being and social equality, he said. It was compatible with the sustainable use of natural resources and acknowledged the capacity of nature, as well as secured the provision of ecosystem services. Green economy addressed the unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. Bringing about a green economy required tailoring national inclusive strategies to the specific circumstances of each country, promoting efficient and sustainable decision-making by policymakers, consumers and the private sector, as well as provision of capital especially for small and medium sized enterprises, through a variety of financing tools. Green economy was not contradictory to development and social agendas. As the success of the so-called Nordic model showed, it was not only possible to have a strong and comprehensive social welfare model combined with ecological responsibility and economic competitiveness, but that it was an inclusive social model which was the key to any Nordic successes.
Turning to the topic of decent work, he said economic growth should create equal possibility for all to participate in the society. Currently the world economy was not able to create a sufficient number of decent employment opportunities. According to ILO, global unemployment would increase from the current 200 million people to 206 million during the next four years. Already more than one third of the unemployed were young people and more than 40 per cent were women. A significant proportion of poor people living in developing countries were self-employed in the informal sector. They should be given decent jobs or a chance to participate in entrepreneurial activities with potential for growth and creation of prosperity and well-being.
Economic and social inequality and exclusion prevented development worldwide. Progressive taxation, public services and social protection had been established as permanent social institutions with a strong capacity to sustainably reduce poverty and inequality. Basic social protection can be regarded as an economic and social necessity for employment and entrepreneurship. “It is not a cost but in investment in people,” he said.
Investment was crucial for achieving goals, but for investment to meet expectations there was the need for clearer and more transparent rules for foreign investment, he said. In the absence of a global agreement, bilateral investment agreements proliferated immensely. An agreement negotiated with full participation of the developing countries was still very much needed.
He said that economic growth and activity and the creation of productive capacities and decent jobs were also profoundly linked to the rule of law, which fostered an enabling environment for economic growth. Predictable legal frameworks provided a good basis for entrepreneurship and business. Legislation should also be effectively implemented so that businesses did not have to struggle with corruption or arbitrary treatment. A predictable and stable environment was attractive for both domestic and foreign investors. He also stressed the need for women’s equal participation in achieving common goals and sustainable development, and the need for more attention to least developed countries, which suffered from low average productivity and limited productive capacities.
“In this era of global interdependence, the time for economic, social or environmental mercantilism was over,” he said. No country could isolate itself from global developments. He fully agreed with the recommendations of the Secretary-General in his report to the Council and called for a well-functioning and efficient United Nations development system in order to promote sustainable development on a global scale.
JUAN SOMAVIA, Director-General of the International Labour Organization, focused on three issues. First, the political consequences of unacceptably high levels of unemployment were ripping apart the fabric of many societies, in both the developed and developing worlds. Young women and men were especially affected, with youth unemployment rates rising over 50 per cent in some countries. The signs of social discontent were very clear. Growth coupled with jobs, or job-intensive growth, was the priority of individuals, families and communities. An old growth model was abruptly coming to an end, but a new model for fair, sustainable and inclusive growth and globalization had yet to be shaped. The current situation could be seen as a prolonged period of uncertainty but also a potential period of creativity for the United Nations, Governments and the Secretariat. “This is a moment for policy leadership by the United Nations,” he declared.
Second, the focus of this annual ministerial review was particularly timely and relevant, he said. Work was central to people’s lives everywhere. When the world’s leaders came together to discuss how to generate strong, sustainable and balanced growth, the citizens that had sent them to the summits were watching what the outcome would do for jobs. Global political concern over jobs could be a unifying theme for international cooperation. All countries were concerned about it. Stronger polices to boost productive capacities, to create opportunities for decent jobs and to safeguard the incomes of working families could be the launch pad for a new departure.
The Global Jobs Pact called for countries to draw on a basic social protection floor as one of the “economic” responses to the crises. Around 80 per cent of people in the world did not have social security — they lacked a solid platform to keep progressing on a strong footing. The time was ripe for acceleration in coverage in social protection, beginning with a broad-based floor. Last month, ILO Recommendation 202 was adopted unanimously by the agency’s constituents to set out a strategy for building nationally defined social protection floors. He hoped that recommendation could give impetus to major national and international initiatives. The visionary report of the United Nations advisory group set up by ILO and led by Michelle Bachelet had helped enormously in building this new global consensus.
Third, he stressed the need for improved coherence and coordination. Recasting national policies to achieve quality growth would require a blending of macroeconomic and employment policies, trade and development policies, social and environmental policies. Country experiences confirmed that such polices had reduced the damage done by the crisis and sped recovery. The process that started last month in Rio to work towards the establishment of Sustainable Development Goals should be seen as the occasion to build a growth and globalization framework that was more coherent and better integrated the critical economic, social and environmental dimensions. An integrated approach on both policy formulation and policy implementation was essential for progress towards inclusive, equitable and sustainable economic growth and development.
It was not only time for a policy rethink, but also for reconstruction of the institutions of global governance and how they connect to national systems, he said. The Council should be fully equipped, technically and politically, to take up the challenge of policy leadership, he said, adding that this was his last Economic and Social Council meeting as ILO Director-General.
TAN SRI DATO’ AZMAN SHAH HARON, President of the International Organization of Employers, said that the United Nations system was not only trying to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals, but to consider what would come after them. Those discussions took place in the face of a protracted economic and job crisis. “Employers have no magic bullets” to face those challenges, he stressed, but the international community had a chance to help decide whether efforts in that respect would succeed or fail. Business, for its part, was well placed to confront such large challenges, as it was used to turning around failing enterprises every day. “A business-as-usual approach will not lead to better outcomes in a changing world,” he said in that respect, stressing that a willingness to change would be essential.
In that context, he issued a call — which had also been issued to the Group of Twenty (G20) and the International Labour Organization — to better recognize the extent to which a robust private sector was essential to realizing global development goals. Development programmes should include specific private sector elements, he said, in which businesses could grow, generate jobs and contribute to their communities. In that vein, strategic short-term investments could lead to long-term gains, and more countries should be able to benefit from the strides made by the private sector.
The annual Doing Business reports of the World Bank Group represented a wealth of ideas, as well as potential related regulatory improvements. Those reports should be reviewed and used to formulate policy in more countries, he stressed, adding that the United Nations system should encourage such use. Policy also needed to be better balanced against its impact on enterprises. “Policy makers must become more scrupulous” in assessing and minimizing the impact on doing business and creating jobs, he said, in particular when they considered imposing new costs on businesses. In that respect, policies claiming to be in the interest of working people could, in fact, have the opposite effect if they made businesses less confident in investing. Such a test should be applied to all labour sector regulations. Policymakers should ask themselves, “Is there a better approach?” Could other approaches or reforms be undertaken to encourage businesses to thrive?
He had seen in his own experience that productivity improvement had been a key to the development of Asian societies. The ILO was once a leader in promoting such improvements, he said, and the Council should encourage it to continue in that role. Sustainable, developing communities and developing economies could only be built on the foundation of sustainable enterprise — a lesson that was all too clear in the workplace throughout the world. One area of opportunity, in that regard, was enhancing levels of context and shared interests of business leaders and policymakers through dialogue. The international business community was ready to play its role in genuine partnership with Governments, international agencies and other partners, he concluded.
SHARAN BURROW, International Trade Union Confederation, said the current economic model “is not working”. With young people increasingly excluded from the labour market, world leaders must focus on quality jobs. “Leaving it to the market won’t work,” with the informal economy growing in every country and inequality making the gaps wider. She also cautioned not to place private sector and public sector growth in a “false competition”, as the infrastructure and services needed would not all be provided by the private sector.
While the G20 meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, had seen a shift in language towards job creation, it had not been matched by commitments to action by the richest countries, she said, which could be delivered with political will. In Los Cabos, leaders had expressed a priority focus on jobs with rights, efforts for youth, and assistance to low-income countries for social protection floors. But, it was up to leaders in their own countries to heed those calls as they chose. “This is not the coordination we need,” she said.
Further, actions to mitigate the damage caused by the financial sector or to combat speculation had been a disaster, she said. Business and labour participants in Los Cabos had called for coordinated investment in infrastructure, particularly green infrastructure; a scaling up of quality apprenticeships and internships, especially for women; and for the G20 Employment Task Force to engage with unions on the tools to shrink the informal sector, which was seriously withering the formal sector in all economies.
The partnership between the G20 and the “Labour-20” was a positive step, she continued, adding that business and union leaders would meet in October on the question of scaling up apprenticeships. But the “premature” decision to halve budgets by 2013 at the Toronto summit had not been overturned. That had renewed the slowdown of the global economy, which would further shrink demand in all regions. Debt levels also must be managed and job-centred growth must be a focus.
She was distressed that, at the last Council panel, there was a feeling that it was alright to attack basic labour market guarantees. Making victims of workers was not in anyone’s interests, she said, stressing the importance of core labour standards. Poll results taken in the lead up to Rio+20 had shown only 13 per cent of people believed that voters had real influence over the economic decisions of Governments. Indeed, the “democratic compact” was over. It was also shocking that only 11 per cent of people had said their income had improved, with an overwhelming majority saying it had been reversed.
Sadly, Rio+20 had not “filled the hope bucket” either, she said. While she was pleased that the Declaration had endorsed green jobs, and human and trade union rights, there was no endorsement of immediate action. That was a missed opportunity. It was shocking that the 114 Heads of State in attendance had not negotiated for even an hour. “This is not the global governance that we need,” she insisted.
Some $25 trillion of workers’ capital was invested in the global economy. “We want our money out of the speculative economy and into patient capital,” she said, adding that workers had committed to place 5 per cent of that money into the green economy within two years, by 2015. For that to happen, the green bond market must mature, which required Governments and multilateral institutions to work with them.
The Global Jobs Pact — developed in negotiations at ILO — must be integrated with a social protection floor, which would do more to deliver the Millennium Development Goals than any other efforts to date. “It’s affordable,” she said, pointing to the $11 trillion held in offshore assets by high net-worth individuals as just one bucket of money. Indeed, the Jobs Pact, underpinned by a social protection floor, would deliver a different world. The Council’s leadership was needed. So were its commitments to principles that had been lacking at other meetings.
DANIELLE FONG, Chief Science Officer and Co-Founder of LightSail Energy, addressed the Council also on behalf of the world’s young people, who she said sought a better relationship with their environment. “We’re held back from achieving the future we desire,” she said in that respect. Young people were better educated than previous generations had been, but they suffered from more severe unemployment. “Our old systems are not working,” she said; young people were frustrated, and felt as if they were on a treadmill that was moving in the wrong direction. “The solution is to get off the treadmill,” she stressed. At the recent United Nations Youth Summit, participants had said that they cared deeply about the future, but that they needed to be more empowered in order to affect it. Screening a brief video on that gathering, she told the Council that entrepreneurship, innovation and bottom-up impact were the keys to changing the current system.
“Entrepreneurship is the new education,” she said in that context, recalling her personal story as an example of working outside of the present system of education and employment. She had entered college early, having found the pace of school to be too slow, and had begun graduate school at the age of 17. Moving to Silicon Valley, she had decided to go her own way, creating a business involving a new system of energy storage. “There was no job” pre-existing in that arena, she stressed, adding: “I had to make it myself.”
The international community could do better in helping to create such new jobs, she continued, advocating, in that respect, for what she termed an “entrepreneurial exchange programme”. Just as student exchange enabled the sharing of ideas and education, an entrepreneurial exchange programme would allow young entrepreneurs to go where their work was needed most. The personal support of those present in the room was essential to support the creation of such a network, she stressed, calling on national leaders to reach out to her in order to help engender that “new form of education”.
National Voluntary Presentation — Russian Federation
Council President Mr. KOTEREC, opening the annual ministerial review on the theme of “Promoting productive capacity, employment and decent work to eradicate poverty in the context of inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth at all levels for achieving the Millennium Development Goals”, said the national voluntary presentations provided a forum for exchanging lessons learned in the implementation of the internationally agreed development goals. Since 2007, 44 countries had shared such lessons. They also provided a platform for national-level implementation to connect with international policymaking.
But the process had a few design flaws, he said, noting that a report-back mechanism to the Council on progress in implementing recommendations emerging from the dialogue would greatly strengthen the experience. The introduction of a standardized analytical framework and creation of regional knowledge-sharing networks would scale up the benefits of the review. This year, an effort would be made to link the presentations with the just concluded Rio+20 Conference. “The key to the effectiveness of the national voluntary presentations is the feedback provided throughout the review process,” he said, voicing hope that they would add new dynamism to an already interactive process.
Introduced by CONNY CZYMOCH, anchor for Phoenix Television in Germany, VITALY F. KOLBANOV, Director, Department of Analyses and Prognosis of Health Development and Social and Labour Spheres, Ministry of Health and Social Development of the Russian Federation, presented his country’s report (document E/2012/52), noting that “profound” economic and social changes had taken place since the adoption of the Millennium Declaration. Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) had increased 1.7 times, while unemployment had fallen from 10 per cent to 6.6 per cent of the economically active population.
In addition, the Government had carried out all its planned measures to preserve social stability and prevent a spike in unemployment, he said. Financial reserves accumulated prior to the global economic crisis had been used to meet public commitments. “The lesson learned is that we have to be well prepared for such crises,” he said, stressing the need for well-tailored plans to mitigate the social impacts of those events. The crisis also had shown that his country must reach a new level of social and economic development. Intensified use of all resources and reserves in labour productivity was needed.
There were new priorities, he said, including modernizing the economy, ensuring balanced growth, promoting innovative economic development, and creating infrastructure for a post-industrial society. The Russian Federation had become integral to the world economy, but “frankly speaking, we did it at the expense of our natural resources,” he said, noting that more than a quarter of its GDP was still formed from exports of energy resources, metals, and other primary goods. Such a production pattern required a high dependence on imports of consumer goods and technologies, which did not guarantee stability and decent well-being.
Further, its labour market had several features that restrained social policy, he said, noting that employment did not vary in line with production fluctuations, wages were low, the number of “working poor” was high, and that there were widespread invisible forms of employment. Reforms were needed, as was a new growth model that took into account new internal and external conditions affecting the national economy. “We cannot exclusively rely on export of raw materials,” he said. The transition from a demand economy to a supply economy would be impossible without the burst of business activity and internal competition that could catalyse supply elasticity in the domestic market. Competition would trigger demand for innovation.
Going forward, he said living standards must be improved. The Russian Federation had education and cultural advantages over other countries and that factor must be developed, while both public and private financing should be increased to support those social structures. Moreover, the labour market must be modernized by shifting the focus from unemployment reduction to efficient employment, from low-paid, unskilled jobs to highly qualified, well-paid work. Labour legislation must become more flexible, while a system of training and retraining workers must be developed. It also was important to stop the “brain drain” and bring back national professionals from abroad.
He said jobs creation was a top priority, and there were vast opportunities for that in transport, construction, housing and public facilities. An efficient labour market required broader participation of people in economic activities throughout the life cycle. Major efforts in social policy would be aimed at nurturing a middle class. The number of jobs requiring high qualification and providing decent salary must be increased. Many countries had incorporated life satisfaction indicators into their economic policies and evaluation criteria of State efficiency. The Russian Federation intended to do the same.
MIGUEL BERGER (Germany), reviewer of the national voluntary presentation of the Russian Federation, said that country had weathered the crisis of 2008-2009 well, with additional public sector employment opportunities created, a level of youth unemployment that had receded, and a steady level of State-sponsored social services. However, he raised the question of the sustainability of measures undertaken to promote small businesses, noting that, should another crisis arise, the Russian Federation would be affected to a similar extent if it did not restructure its industrial production.
Moreover, in order to guarantee the sustainability of development, it was necessary to build up efficient, diversified industrial production and to reduce the unbalanced orientation towards oil and gas concerns. Reviewing other efforts undertaken in areas related to employment, he stressed that the Russian Federation should intensify its cooperation with ILO and that the country’s unions should assume a central role in the labour market and social policy. He also issued recommendations for helping the Russian Federation achieve its goals related to creating decent work, minimizing inequality and fighting poverty, as well as grappling with the effects of an aging society.
Mr. KOLBANOV responded that Russia had stepped up its accession to ILO conventions, despite some financial difficulties. Regarding demography, a special conception for demographic development had been adopted, and good results had been achieved; he cited, in that respect, a 25 per cent increase in the country’s fertility rate in recent years. It was also important to reduce the death rate of the active working population. “People are getting younger,” he stressed. Unfortunately, the Russian Federation remained a long way behind other countries in areas related to its ageing population.
DONG ZHIHUA (China) agreed with other reviewers that the Russian Federation had made enormous efforts to respond to the international financial crisis, curb the rise of unemployment and increase the income of its people. Nonetheless, the task of achieving economic modernization remained arduous, and the country still faced challenges in economic structural adjustment and the transformation of its modes of growth. She asked Mr. Kolbanov what specific policy measures the Russian Federation intended to take in immigration management in order to advance economic and social development.
Responding, Mr. KOLBANOV said that migration processes were an important, but not the most important, element of the country’s demography. The most important thing was to reduce the death rate of the active working population. First and foremost, migration should contribute to more effective management of the country’s policies. Special measures should be taken to support voluntary mobility for nationals that lived abroad and the return of immigrants, and priority should be given to highly qualified specialists and those foreign workers whose skills were sorely needed in the Russian Federation. Noting that the Russian population was not very mobile, he said that the Government was actively seeking infrastructure that would step up internal migration.
DENIS ZDOROV (Belarus) commended the efforts made with regards to the social protection of Russian citizens during the recent crisis. There was a need for bold measures to stimulate the economy. The focus should be the fight against poverty, he said; in that regard, he asked for more information on lessons learned in overcoming the financial crises of the 1980s and related measures that had been recently implemented. Regarding the Russian Federation’s institutions for social partnerships, he asked how the country intended to further develop those partnerships.
Mr. KOBLANOV said that the Russian Federation had substantially increased minimum wage levels and basic subsistence allowances. The instruments adopted during the crisis were based on a system of social contracts, where people who wished to move out of poverty concluded a contract with the authorities and the social protection system assisted them in seeking employment or starting their own businesses. Those useful mechanisms had been vital in fighting poverty, he stressed. The country had also developed specific social partnerships with trade unions and employers.
The discussion’s moderator, CONNY CZYMOCH, then raised a question related to the success of technology and agriculture programmes, to which Mr. Kolbanov responded that there was a need to improve technological development in some regions of the Russian Federation. However, some regions had “exploded” with technological innovations, including in the automotive and food industries.
Taking the floor, OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ (Cuba) said that the Russian Federation’s decision to earmark funds for the social sectors was a major positive development. Health, education, housing and employment, among other sectors, were targeted; as a result, unemployment had fallen and pension levels were increasing. He asked for more details on the creation of jobs for persons with disabilities, and how the country took into account the special needs of those with disabilities and their families.
There were 19.5 million people with disabilities in the Russian Federation — an extremely high rate — responded Mr. KOLBANOV. Notwithstanding a quota system for people with disabilities, employers tried not to hire them, which was a troubling situation. Instead, the Government had offered subsidies from the federal budget to create or reconstruct work places specifically for people with disabilities. The country intended to use that mechanism on a broader scale. The Russian Federation had also recently ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and was working to remove the hurdles that impeded the participation of those with disabilities in daily life. “It’s a big job,” he said, and he hoped that his country’s systemic approach would help it move forward to improve the situation of people with disabilities.
ELENA SUTORMINA, of the Russian Peace Foundation, commended the points made in the Russian report. However, she said, there remained a serious problem of youth unemployment. The authorities must also become more open to civil society, she stressed.
Mr. KOLBANOV agreed that there was a need for better civil society engagement and that youth unemployment was a problem. The Russian Federation was working to train young people and it was actively working with medium-level educational establishments, which could propose work for graduates. Higher level establishments, for their part, were already working closely with employers. The country needed to strike a balance between supporting young people and guaranteeing the rights of other citizens, as well. With regards to civil society, the highest levels of Government met frequently with civil society leaders, and intended to do so more and more frequently.
National Voluntary Presentation — Algeria
Also introduced by Ms. Czymoch was RABAH HADID (Algeria), who presented the annual ministerial review report (document E/2012/53) on behalf of Abdelkader Messahel, the country’s African Affairs Minister. For more than a decade, he said, Algeria had been implementing a national strategy focusing on four key areas: macroeconomic stability, structural reforms, the development of infrastructure, and the diversification of the country’s productive sector. Imbalances prevalent at the beginning of the last decade had been reversed, and much of the country’s external debt had been reimbursed early, meaning that “debt no longer undermines development in Algeria”. Meanwhile, the tax, financial and banking systems, as well as the judicial system and other key sectors, had also adapted the strategy in their various arenas.
Improvements had been made in both the country’s public and private sectors, and “new life [was] breathed into the Algerian economy”. Public investments were part of the country’s 2001-2009 programme, and focused on infrastructure, rural development, habitats and other related areas. Apart from the fossil fuel sector, there had been a 6 per cent growth rate for 2001-2009, and unemployment had been reduced from 30 per cent in 2001 to 10 per cent in 2009. A new public investment programme for 2010-2014 was now being implemented, which sought to modernize infrastructure and large public industrial bodies, update small and medium-sized enterprises in the public sector, and create some 200,000 such enterprises by 2014. The target was the creation of 3 million new jobs, half of which would be sustainable, by 2014.
Speaking more specifically about the struggle against poverty and unemployment in Algeria, he underscored that the “social dimension” was an integral part of the country’s strategy. About fifty per cent of public investments from 2001-2011 were aimed at improving the living conditions of the Algerian people, from increasing access to drinking water and sanitation to improving housing to linking households to electricity. The country was also working to improve the purchasing power of its people, he said. Describing Algeria’s action programme for combating unemployment and poverty, he called that strategy a comprehensive approach tackling the root causes of the problems. The first focus was improving access to the economy; meanwhile, the State was involved in job training and the promotion of youth employment. A series of measures had been taken to improve the labour market, including, in that respect, plans towards the creation of a coordinating body.
KHANDKER MOSHARRAF HOSSAIN, Minister of Labour and Employment of Bangladesh, said Algeria’s presentation was quite enlightening as it offered a challenging but successful development context. His Government, which had reviewed Algeria’s submission, was pleased to note that having been placed among the top 10 countries in terms of Human Development Index, Algeria had been making its best efforts towards sustaining economic and human development in the long term through the diversification of sources of economic growth and job creation. Algeria had also been able to meet several Millennium Goals ahead of the 2015 deadline.
While implementing its two economic support plans and the current five-year plan, Algeria, he continued, had pursued a holistic economic development strategy with a special focus on the development of basic infrastructure. Algeria’s pragmatic policies had helped create many jobs by boosting many sectors of the economy. It had laid out the foundation for a private sector-friendly economic development with an aim to improve private enterprises’ productive capacity and potential for job creation.
Mr. HOSSAIN asked several questions, including what special measures had Algeria taken in assisting job seekers and helping unemployed young people to access the job market. He also wondered about Algeria’s success in reducing the jobless rate by 20 percentage points. How was that rate maintained, particularly for vulnerable social groups, like women and young people at a time when unemployment was on the rise almost everywhere? He also asked abut the challenges that the Government faced while enacting active national labour market policies following the ratification of ILO Convention 122. Finally, he sought Algeria’s advice to least developed countries, like Bangladesh, for enacting policies and initiatives that would boost productive capacities and employment.
Responding, Mr. HADID said his Government classified unemployed work force into three groups — university graduates, those who had received secondary education and those who didn’t have qualifications — and tailored measures to the specific needs of each group. The third group received apprenticeship for six months under local authorities. At the end of a vocational integration period, they had jobs.
Women were a key area, he continued, and the proportion of women in the work force had increased to 20 per cent. This was significant given where Algeria had started on this front. “One day, we should have gender parity,” he said, adding that Algeria also had made it easier for disabled people to participate in the work force. He also noted that Algeria ratified all labour conventions and reworked policies over a 20-year period to resolve problems broadly.
To other questions, Mr. HADID said that Algeria exported labour rather than taking in migrant workers. So the issue of migrant workers was not really a concern. His Government guaranteed minimum wage, welfare, and other rights for them as well. He advised Bangladesh and other least developed countries to adopt a holistic approach, not piece-meal policies, given the interconnectedness of markets. For instance, macroeconomic policy should be complemented with structural reform. If parts were not working, the whole wouldn’t work. Algeria studied both African and global experiences. For instance, his Government studied how capitalism worked in certain countries.
National Voluntary Presentation — Brazil
Next, Ms. CZYMOCH introduced MARIO BARBOSA, Special Advisor to the Minister of Labour and Employment of Brazil, who presented his country’s report to the annual ministerial review (document E/2012/56). Referring to Brazil’s National Plan on Employment and Decent Work — whose goal was to reduce poverty and social inequality — he said that it articulated and monitored programmes related to several main priorities, including creating more and better jobs and eradicating “slave labour” and child labour. Brazil was working to strengthen policies to support employment and increase income transfer; as a result, it had faced the recent crisis from a better place than it had faced past crises. Average economic growth between 2003 and 2011 was about 4 per cent a year, and in that time an unprecedented number of formal jobs were created — about 17 million new posts. About 30 million people were lifted out of poverty during that period, he added.
Brazil’s Acceleration and Growth Programme, known by the acronym PAC, worked by investing in infrastructure, improving the country’s investment environment, putting in place long-term fiscal measures, improving the tax system, and implementing stimulus credit and financing. The Programme had made several important advances, including the creation of new jobs, the expansion of bank credit, the maintenance of inflation rates within the targets set by the National Monetary Council, and a decline in unemployment. The country had also implemented a national minimum wage appreciation policy, and several social support policies, including, among others, a family grant programme and a “Brazil without Extreme Poverty” plan. The latter had as its goal to eradicate extreme poverty, which still affected 16.2 million people across Brazil. Some 300,000 new families were now benefiting from the family grant programme, he said.
Challenges for the period 2012 to 2015 included increased investment and infrastructure, the growth of the domestic market, the expansion of credit, the improvement of social programmes, increasing fiscal strength, and improving currency stability, among others. He said the Government also faced the daunting challenge of hosting the football World Cup (2014) and the Olympic Games (2016). The development Brazil desired must be sustainable, he stressed; while economic growth was essential for generating new job opportunities, the Brazilian experience suggested that it was the development of social policies that contributed to boosting gross domestic product growth.
Taking the floor to review that report, BASO SANGQU (South Africa) said it was important that increased investments were balanced with the promotion of macroeconomic stability. Against that backdrop, he asked how the Brazilian Government planned to balance its efforts towards productive growth, on the one hand, with macroeconomic stability on the other. How did the country intend to attract foreign direct investment and preserve, at the same time, the rights of workers, while maintaining social protection floors?
Mr. BARBOSA responded that in times of hyperinflation, resources were diverted that could otherwise be channelled to public investment. The lack of predictability that macro-instability entailed affected both public and private sectors. Brazil was committed to keeping public expenses below tax revenues and to focusing expenditures on social programmes; those efforts contributed to macroeconomic stability in the long run, he stressed. In order to keep that growth at a sustainable level, increased domestic demand must be met by increased domestic supply; moreover, the country needed to avoid another “inflationary spiral”.
Adopting measures to make labour rights more flexible was a “fallacy”, he continued. The Secretary-General’s report noted a World Bank survey had found that labour regulations were rarely cited as a major concern. However, the protection of workers, their continued training and improvement, and the establishment of social protection floors must be seen not as a burden, but as an investment in economic growth. Brazilian social policies also incorporated civil society voices through the results of national thematic conferences, he added.
EDUARDO PORRETTI (Argentina) said there must be a balance between the social, environmental and economic dimensions of all human actions. Jobs were at once an ends and a means, he stressed in that regard. Noting that the “Zero Hunger” report had been replicated successfully in some regions of the world through South-South cooperation mechanisms, he asked Mr. Barbosa what he thought about replicating that programme in Brazil. With regard to the country’s family grant system, he also wished to know more about the role played by tax system improvements.
Mr. BARBOSA responded by describing the key priorities that framed Brazil’s National Agenda for Decent Work, which, since 2003, had been set out in a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and ILO. He also noted that on the Zero Hunger project had grown stronger since 2003 with the country’s increasing productive capacity and the increased production of food. Issues such as those raised by the Argentinean representative, including the tax system, were part of the ongoing dialogue in the business sector; a series of recent programmes were being designed and implemented with a view to identifying, and removing, the main obstacles to sustainable production.
MÅRTEN GRUNDITZ (Sweden) said that, thanks to significant political will on the part of Brazil’s current and previous administrations, that country had made remarkable economic and social progress in the last decade. He underlined that Brazil was a rare case of a very large middle income country having combined economic growth with reduced inequality. The presence of a strong and efficient State had, in fact, stimulated economic growth, and the country had achieved very rapid social progress.
Reviewing possible future challenges for Brazil, he said that a key challenge was to accelerate economic growth and further strengthen resilience to international shocks. Another challenge was to further reduce inequality and offer human development opportunities to all, he said, noting that despite recent progress Brazil remained among the 10 most unequal countries in the world. He asked, in that respect, for Mr. Barbosa’s assessment of the possibilities to further reduce poverty and in which segment of the population he felt one could expect the highest impact from policy over the coming decade.
Among other challenges, he continued, was that of increasing domestic savings in order to finance the country’s large investment needs. The funding of future increases in public investments would seem to call for slower current public expenditure growth and increased effectiveness and cost-efficiency of Government programmes. Finally, he touched on the “greatest challenge of them all” — the eradication of extreme poverty — asking Mr. Barbosa to comment on the further development of programmes in that respect.
Responding, Mr. BARBOSA said that his country’s policies and programmes, especially those targeted at reducing social inequalities, were not only a moral imperative, but they constituted the basis for a renewed and more sustainable economic model. Economic growth was not a precondition for the distribution of wealth. Instead, prioritizing social inclusion resulted in increased domestic demand, more investments and economic growth that fed back into more and better jobs. With regard to the resilience to shocks, he said that investment in the Brazilian people — such as the family grant programme — explained the stronger resilience that had been seen during the recent crisis. People were able to take advantage of better work opportunities, thereby breaking the cycle of poverty. It would take time to eradicate extreme poverty and to leave the list of the most unequal countries in the world, he said; that was why programmes must aim directly at the long-term transformation that Brazil needed.
Touching on the theme of the third Millennium Development Goal, Ms. CZYMOCH asked the panellists which of their country’s programmes dealt with gender equality and the empowerment of women. In response, Mr. HADID said that the number of female deputies in the Algerian National Assembly had increased, and the Government had introduced a strategy intended to ensure gender equality and the empowerment of women. It included advocacy, the promotion of the rights of women and the promotion of an improved image of women. Algeria had implemented related programmes with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), along with other international agencies, and had created gender focal points in all sectors. Women were increasingly attracted to business, he said, and Algeria had over 150,000 women heads of business, both in agriculture and in industry. That demonstrated a “greater dynamism” in the work of Algerian women, he stressed in that respect.
For his part, Mr. BARBOSA responded that, as part of Brazil’s approach to the issue of employment, decent work and social protection, the gender issue was present, as were the similar issues of youth and persons with disabilities. Brazil had recently held its third National Conference on Women, whose resolutions would be considered in designing and implementing public policy. There was a national subcommittee for the issue of gender equality, which sought to monitor all the actions of the Government and their impact on gender equality. The country’s data was disaggregated by gender, he stressed, adding that women also benefited the most from its microcredit schemes. It was usually the women of a family who had the capacity and responsibility to manage the funds received from national initiatives, such as the family grants programme, he said.
Taking the floor, Mr. BERGER (Germany) asked where Brazil had encountered the most resistance to the implementation of its new programmes.
Mr. BARBOSA stressed the importance of the participation of employers and other social actors in implementing the National Plan for Decent Work, and said that, in the beginning, there had been some resistance to the plan. It had been necessary to build mutual trust, he said, and to prove that the implementation of such proposed programmes did not just benefit the Government. Employers began to realize that the initiatives, in fact, benefited all of society, he said. It was an ongoing process of “mutual learning”, for employers, workers and the Government, he said in that respect.
National Voluntary Presentation - Ecuador
Introduced by JOSÉ MANUEL SALAZAR-XIRINACHS, Executive Director, Employment Sector of the International Labour Organization (ILO), who moderated the second set of afternoon presentations, FANDER FALCONI, Minister of National Planning for Development of Ecuador presented his country’s report entitled “Decent work for living well in Ecuador” (document E/2012/58). The Government had a planning policy that redistributed wealth, which had been well-received by the international community. Public policy goals for human development and follow-up had been set. In addition, the new Constitution, adopted in 2008, contained principles on decent work, the eradication of child labour, and the right to social security.
He went on to say that in April 2011, public consultations had found that a majority of people believed that failing to register workers for social security should be considered an offence. Efforts had been made in that regard and a minimum wage also had been set. Between December 2006 and December 2011, social security coverage had increased by 49 per cent. Similar gains also had been seen in the recognition of unpaid work, for example, and policies to reconcile public and private considerations, such as maternity leave.
Further, an agreement between Ecuador and Spain guaranteed social security for workers employed in the other’s country, he said. Also during that time, poverty in Ecuador dropped by 9 per cent and society had become more equitable. Child labour in rural areas dropped by 20 points and in urban areas by six points. Detailing some of the challenges, he said Ecuador had innovative approaches to constitutional law. The Constitution made nature a subject of the law, which was part and parcel of the exercise of decent work. “We have the Government behind us in these plans,” he said, noting it was also open to constructive dialogue with diverse populations.
VITALY F. KOLBANOV of the Russian Federation, the first reviewer, noted Ecuador’s significant progress in combating unemployment, inequality and in expanding the coverage for social services. He supported employment reforms and creating the so-called “people’s economy”. A priority for creating new, efficient jobs — a key factor for sustainable development — required creating a propitious business climate. He asked about efforts to stimulate investment activities and support entrepreneurism.
FERNANDO FERNANDEZ-ARIAS MINUESA of Spain, the second reviewer, drew attention to the importance of having a solid legal framework, as was seen in Ecuador’s Constitution. He also underlined Ecuador’s national plan for “living well”, which involved setting a minimum wage. He also commended improvements in labour and wage conditions, through a rights-based approach, as well as the agreement between Spain and Ecuador for reciprocal social security rights. He asked for more detail about family care and care of dependent persons, as well as examples of South-South cooperation. He also wondered how Ecuador would incorporate recommendations from the ILO “Bachelet report” on establishing a social protection floor.
RAFAEL ARCHONDO, the representative of Bolivia, drew attention to the fact that some of Ecuador’s economic curves had inverted. Underemployment had reduced while full employment had increased to 40 per cent. He asked for information on indigenous peoples of Ecuador and persons of African descent, who often suffered in poverty.
In response, Mr. FALCONI said the institutional aspect was essential. Ecuador had a new Constitution, like many Latin American countries, and thus, many of the rules had changed, including for precarious employment that existed under the earlier neoliberal economic model. “Man comes first,” he said, describing the situation today. At the Rio+20 Summit, the principle of living well had been much discussed and, in that context, Ecuador’s objectives implied public policy changes. The Millennium Goals were minimum development objectives, compared with Ecuador’s more ambitious plans.
Regarding investment and capacity-building, he said Ecuador’s economy had grown by 7.8 per cent last year, the third-highest in Latin America. That growth was based on an increase in domestic consumption, and an increase in public and private investment.
He discussed a programme for persons with disabilities, who were the target of Ecuador’s public policies. Ecuador carried out studies to ensure the Government cared for them in the best possible way. Vouchers were available to those with severe disabilities living in rural or marginalized urban areas. A human development voucher, for people living below a certain income level, helped mothers send their children to school, for example, among other things. On the situation of indigenous peoples and people of African descent, he cited statistics showing improvements in the provision of free higher education.
National Voluntary Presentation — Ukraine
VASYL NADRAGA, First Deputy Minister for Social Policy of Ukraine, outlined various macroeconomic achievements, noting that between 2010 and 2011, the economy had shown an upward trend, thanks to economic reforms for the 2010-2014 period, and a “pragmatic” policy aimed at stabilizing the post-crisis economy. Between 2010 and 2011, GDP had grown by 9.5 per cent, recovering more than half of the losses due to the crisis. Industrial development — at 19.7 per cent — was among the highest of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), while exports of machinery, equipment, vehicles and devices had increased by 72.6 per cent.
Turning to the employment situation, he said that in 2011, employment of people aged 15 to 70 years had significantly increased — to 59.2 per cent — almost reaching its pre-crisis level of 59.3 per cent in 2008. Women’s employment had not seen significant changes in the last decade. In 2011, men’s employment increased to 64.4 per cent, versus 63.1 per cent in 2010. The number of unemployed persons — using ILO methodology — had decreased by 3 per cent in 2011 versus 2010. Ukraine was working to increase the competitiveness of unemployed people by modernizing the provision of employment, improving the quality of vocational training, and expanding access to information on the labour market — which involved coordination among all labour market actors.
On poverty reduction efforts, he said the simultaneous decline in relative and absolute poverty had been observed for the first time since 1999. During 2010 and 2011, absolute poverty had fallen by half, registering 1.4 per cent in the first nine months of 2011, versus 2.9 per cent for the corresponding period in 2010, which gave him hope that extreme forms of absolute poverty would be eliminated in the coming years. Other data showed, however, that the proportion of the population spending more than 60 per cent of their income on food had increased. The national programme for combating and preventing poverty through 2015, approved last August, identified key poverty reduction measures, especially those for employment, wage improvement and pension increases.
As for Ukraine’s economic and social development priorities, he said Government efforts would aim to develop a modern, stable, open and globally competitive economy that would ultimately increase the welfare of Ukrainians. Economic reforms for 2010-2014 aimed to create the basic conditions for economic growth by maintaining low inflation and stabilizing public finances. Efforts would be made to reduce State intervention in the economy and lower administrative barriers. Other priorities would include modernizing infrastructure by eliminating structural problems in energy, among other areas, developing human and social capital by improving education and health services, and increasing the effectiveness of governance by reforming the executive branch.
CSABA KÖRÖSI (Hungary), the first of three reviewers of Ukraine’s report, stressed that the country’s macroeconomic data from 2010-2011 were “impressive”. He asked several questions, including one related to the reduction of Ukraine’s foreign debt. He also wondered what the HIV prevalence rate was in Ukraine, and whether there were any recent trends that Mr. Nadraga wished to share in that regard. He also asked about environmental sustainability, and particularly access to water, requesting further information in the respect, and asked about changes in CO2 emission in Ukraine in the coming years.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said that she would welcome more information in a number of areas, including on projects aimed at promoting decent work with a special focus on youth. She described important areas that Brazil had identified — including investments in infrastructure that eliminated transportation bottlenecks, and the reduction of administrative barriers — and welcomed comments in those areas.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA (Kazakhstan) complimented Ukraine for the significant strides achieved so far to ensure social integration, and to protect the rights of vulnerable groups. In light of those positive outcomes, she wished to learn more about measures undertaken to launch Ukraine’s national economic reform process in the context of the long-term consequences of the financial crisis. Ukraine maintained a constructive dialogue with trade unions, she said; in a similar vein, she was interested in knowing more about partnerships between Ukraine and ILO, and lessons that other countries could learn in that respect.
Responding to those comments and questions, Mr. NADRAGA said that, regarding efforts to reduce the country’s sovereign debt, a number of factors were in play. The trend indicated that Ukraine was enhancing trust amongst foreign investors, and domestic efforts were under way to improve the country’s credit rating. HIV remained a major challenge, he agreed, and a national road map was in place to meet the needs of those infected with the virus. Mother-to-child HIV infection had dropped sixfold in recent years, and Ukraine was enhancing the protection of those living with AIDS. It had signed new agreements with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and he hoped that by 2015, Ukraine would meet its obligations for responding to the virus.
He went on to say that in 2011, Ukraine was the leader in the joint implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. It was also a leader in the reduction of greenhouse gas emission units, having cut emissions by 50 per cent compared to the 1990s.
Turning to the questions of the representative from Brazil, he said that a new draft of the Ukrainian law on employment was on the table; it highlighted key issues, including ways to reduce unemployment among young people. A new national agreement on employment and jobs had also been signed with the country’s major employers. Particularly positive had been the work undertaken with ILO, including recommendations on what should be included in the new laws and agreements. Ukraine had also drawn up laws to reduce administrative barriers to business, he added, and was working to make registration and related laws comprehensible to businesses.
The representative of Kazakhstan had wondered about social reform, he recalled. Ukraine had in place a State programme for overcoming poverty, and, in particular, a social initiative with 17 specific elements. Regarding cooperation with ILO and other partners, he said there was a specific law on employers’ organizations and trade unions, which allowed for an institutional form of social dialogue. Ukraine was also holding an informal dialogue and had reached an agreement setting forth the responsibilities of the Government on the one hand, and the trade unions on the other.
PAUL OQUIST (Nicaragua) said that the various reforms that had taken place across Latin America had different features, but several common elements. Ecuador, for its part, had an agenda for productive change, a social agenda, and an agenda for living well. Redistributive policies for wealth and income were helping to reduce disparities in that country, he said.
OKSANA MELNIKOVICH (Belarus) welcomed the improvement of the investment climate, the creation of jobs, and the measures taken to improve the situation in Ukraine’s social sphere. Belarus endorsed Ukraine’s approach to the relationship between the State and business, and welcomed the fact that the country was moving on to a new level of social assistance, including the provision of assistance to the most vulnerable groups.
Issuing a final question to both countries, Mr. Salazar-Xirinachs wondered about natural resources and exports. What kinds of policies were being put in place to attempt to diversify the exports of Ecuador and Ukraine?
Responding first to a point made by the representative of Belarus, Mr. NADRAGA said that State assistance should be given to those who truly needed it. Targeted social assistance therefore meant that assistance should be provided to those who could not survive without it, he said. With regards to the question on diversification, Ukraine had great prospects in the field of agricultural and industrial exports, and there were proposals in new areas such as airplane production. New technologies also needed to be adopted in the country’s day-to-day work, he said.
For his part, Mr. FALCONI responded that there were three specific strategies relevant to his country’s diversification: ensuring that the State maintained control of the resources gained from the extraction of natural resources, strategic diversification in the field of technology and innovation, and increasing the essential “oil” of national human resources.
* *** *For information media • not an official record