Quality employment key to poverty alleviation, UN official says

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark

22 March 2010 – Decent employment opportunities are essential for countries to achieve economic growth and alleviate poverty, the head of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said today, stressing the need to create more and better jobs each year.

“Sustainable income generated through adult employment, for example, enables families to send their children to school,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, addressing a session on the Social Dimension of Globalization in Geneva, organised by the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) governing body.

“That then contributes to their children reaching their potential, and, therefore, to both a greater ability to participate fully in society in the future and in the workforce. That creates more resources for priority investments by families and nations. This is the kind of virtuous cycle which must be set in motion for development to gain traction,” she said.

With only five years to go before the 2015 target for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving extreme poverty and hunger, the pace at which better jobs are created has to be stepped up, Miss Clark said.

She lauded ILO’s Global Jobs Pact, saying UNDP’s executive board had in January resolved that the pact should be integrated into UNDP’s operational activities. The pact is designed to guide national and international policies aimed at stimulating economic recovery, generating jobs and providing protection to working people and their families.

Miss Clark noted that globally, the number of people living in extreme poverty is estimated to have dropped from 1.8 billion people in 1990 to 1.4 billion in 2005. Enrolment in primary education has increased significantly, and the deaths of children under the age of five decreased significantly between 1990 and 2008.

Yet many challenges remain, she said, pointing out that little progress has been made in maternal health. In the developing world as a whole, there were 480 maternal deaths per 100,000 births in 1990 compared to 450 deaths in 2005, and that small decline reflects progress only in some regions.

Overall, the progress made on the MDGs has been uneven, Miss Clark noted. While in some countries the rate of extreme poverty reduction has met the Goal, in others, poverty rates are actually increasing.

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