Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the Launch of the 2007 Report on the World Social Situation
New York, 28 November 2007

Distinguished guests,

It is my pleasure to launch the United Nations’ 2007 Report on the World Social Situation: the Employment Imperative.

Produced by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and its predecessors, the Report on the World Social Situation has a long and distinguished history.

Since 1952, the Report has served as a foundation for intergovernmental discussion and decision-making on socio-economic issues. And for the international community as a whole, it has identified social trends of international concern and provided in-depth analysis of major development issues.

In 2005, the focus was inequality, and, in 2003, social vulnerability. Neither topic had been highly visible on the international agenda. Yet both were – and remain – critical to achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs.

Carrying on this tradition, the current Report puts a sharp focus on employment as an issue of great importance to all countries, with a central role in reducing poverty.

The 2005 World Summit raised the prominence of employment as a development issue. In its Ministerial Declaration the following year, the Economic and Social Council stressed that employment and decent work need to be not a

by-product, but the central objective of development strategies.

Nonetheless, macroeconomic and social policies have not been successful in lowering unemployment rates to desirable levels, in both developing and developed countries.

We see a number of worrisome trends.

Globally, despite robust rates of economic growth, employment creation is lagging behind growth of the working age population. From 1996 to 2006, global output expanded by 3.8 per cent per year. Yet, during the same decade, the unemployment rate increased from 6 to 6.3 per cent. Economic growth and job growth are not trending together, to the detriment of our societies and citizens.

Meanwhile, employment conditions are getting worse. There is greater economic insecurity for most workers and greater levels of most forms of inequality in societies. Workers with low education and low skills have been hit especially hard by these trends in an increasingly globalized world.

This year’s Report on the World Social Situation aims to build our understanding of the changing world of work. It examines the challenges of creating productive employment and decent work for all in the 21st century. And it identifies some policy directions for moving forward.

DESA offers this 2007 Report in the hope that it will help guide decisive actions at all levels to build a more secure and prosperous society for all.

As such, the Report gets to the core of DESA’s mission, to serve and support Member States and the United Nations in the great cause of development for all.

Thank you.