15 - 16 November 2006, United Nations, New York



11:20-12:45, Conference Room 2

Moderator: Mr. Riswanul Islam, Director, Economic and Labour Markets Analysis Department, ILO
Prof. Martha Chen
, Harvard University
Mr. Claude Akpokavie, ILO Bureau for Workers' Activities
Dr. Ladis Columban Komba, Permanent Secretary of Labour, Tanzania

Session organized by ILO

Poverty is strongly linked to the inability of getting enough incomes to live adequately by individuals and households around the world. This inability is rooted in many factors, but one of the most important is the struggle to have a decent job. Nearly half of the world’s 2.8 billion workers are unable to earn enough to lift themselves and their households above the poverty line of US$ 2 a day. Although most of the developing regions have seen a decline in the share of working poverty in total employment –except in sub-Saharan Africa, there is still much to be done. Having a regular job substantially reduces the risk of poverty but to achieve it is not easy. On the other hand, the widening dispersion of wages and concerns over poverty amongst more vulnerable workers has focused attention on how to achieve reasonable wages, avoiding income inequality.

Poverty reduction is at the core of the ILO’s mandate and values. It has been on the national and international agenda since 1999, with the introduction of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. “Working out of Poverty”, the Director General’s Report to the 2003 International Labour Conference, set out the range of decent work instruments that cut across all its four strategic objectives (full respect for workers rights and International labour standards, employment creations in quantitative and qualitative dimensions, social protection and social dialogue) and contributed to the fight against poverty.

In 2005 and 2006, significant progress was made in connecting the Decent Work Agenda with the fight against poverty at the national, regional and international levels. In September 2005, the Heads of State gathered at the UN General Assembly resolved “to make the goal of full employment and decent work for all, including for women and young people, a central objective of our relevant national and international policies…including poverty reduction strategies, as part of our effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals…”.

The integration of the Decent Work Agenda within the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper process successfully underscored the importance of tripartite participation and social dialogue in deepening the national ownership of Poverty Reduction Strategies and in increasing the relevance of the Decent Work Agenda for effective poverty reduction at the country level. This has led to increased recognition by the international community of the importance of productive employment as a priority goal in the design, implementation and monitoring of Poverty Reduction Strategies. This has resulted in a notable change in the new generation of Poverty Reduction Strategies, which are more employment-friendly. There are now converging calls by national drivers of development strategies and economic policies to assess the employment impact of financial and investment plans and of public expenditure frameworks.

The ILO will also provide support to improve the capabilities of governments and social partners to promote decent work through integrated local development strategies for low-income groups in rural communities and urban informal economies. ILO strategies and tools include, among other things,  skills training, the development of cooperatives and small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), support to microfinance, and promoting labour-intensive works. It also entails practical action for eliminating child labour and forced labour, combating HIV/AIDS, fighting discrimination and advancing the rights of minorities and the vulnerable groups. The promotion of collective organization of informal economy operators, employers and workers and the promotion of practical strategies for social dialogue at the local level are part of this agenda.
The High Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) agreed in March 2006 to undertake the development of a tool to support countries to give effect to their commitment to employment and decent work, to guide the management of the U.N system in this area. The facilitation of the assessment of the potential of the policies, strategies, programmes and activities of different U.N agencies individually and collectively in terms of employment and decent work outcomes was highlighted as a must. Within these activities, poverty eradication is one of the most important issues to be firstly addressed by the U.N system in general and the countries in particular.

The discussion in the panel will try to provide a "state-of-the-art" discussion on how to include the four dimensions of decent work into the actual practice of pro-poor policies, either from a macroeconomic or social policies point of view, or from the application of actual pro-poor policies, at the micro and meso level.

This would undoubtedly be a challenge: how both types of policies can effectively foster employment growth but also better quality in it, particularly among the most vulnerable groups. This would undoubtedly be linked with the four dimensions of decent work: employment creation but in accordance with international standards, with social protection and using social dialogue.

We would like to have a discussion on how these macro and micro policies, where different development agencies, and national constituents play important but different roles, can concretely foster good quality employment with rights and protection to the poorest directly or indirectly. Which are the main questions to be solved when developing a transfer programme? How to be more employment-friendly in education, health and migration issues? How rights or dialogue is embedded in the discussion of a national strategy or in a PRSP process? How macroeconomic policies are inclusive of topics like productivity, social protection, employment creation and poverty alleviation programmes? How to best develop a lens to see through it in an array of possible policies to achieve decent work directly or indirectly?

The need for practitioners in the international arena to mainstream decent work goals into their own activities, as well as the need for national policies to be more coherent in terms of economic and social policies to foster "good policies" taking decent work on board, is really a challenge and we would like to discuss it as a means of working out of poverty.

The panel will be pursuing a tripartite nature, trying to gather workers, employers and governments around the possible array of actions towards including and mainstreaming decent work into the different macro and micro policies.