|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
Panel Discussion (PM)
Need For New Political Commitment to Production, Job Growth Underlined as Panel
in Second Committee Discusses Alternative Employment‑Creation Strategies
Panellists, Delegates Focus on Role of Labour Markets,
Social‑protection Measures, Enterprise‑friendly Environments, Technology
Amid the urgent global need for jobs, there was a growing consensus that rebuilding the link between markets and people was necessary for the creation of a new model of political commitment to production and employment growth, a senior official with UN Women told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today.
Job creation was the “defining issue of our times”, cutting across development and human rights, said Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary‑General for Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships at UN Women. Job losses and increased unemployment in both developed and developing countries had been the signature of the economic and financial crisis since 2008, she said, as had underemployment, vulnerable unemployment and working poverty.
Ms. Puri was moderating the Committee’s discussion on “Alternative Development Strategies for Job Creation”. It also featured Bitrus Vandy Yohanna (Nigeria), Vice‑Chair of the Second Committee, and the following panellists: Massimiliano La Marca, Economic Policy Specialist at the International Labour Organization (ILO); Akbar Norman, Senior Fellow, Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University; Peter Bakvis, Director of the Washington Office of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Association of Global Union Federations; and Adam Greene, Vice‑President for Labour Affairs and Corporate Responsibility at the United States Council for International Business.
The jobs crisis had been “agitating us” Ms. Puri said, calling upon the international community to question the development model it had been following thus far. Urging the international community to replace that “gloom and doom” view of the global economy with a constructive questioning of globalization, she said development models, including the capitalist and finance‑capitalist ones, had been found to be wrong. Calling for a shift to a more equal, fair and sustainable paradigm and a new realignment between State and markets, she said the gap between rich and poor had become an issue everywhere.
Mr. Bakvis, recalling that flexible labour markets had been a “religion” a few years ago, said the recession had shown that countries with more regulation and good social‑protection systems in place, the German and Scandinavian examples specifically, had navigated the crisis better than those with deregulated labour markets. Instead of shedding jobs during the crisis, German companies had reduced working time and salary expenditures while retaining jobs, he pointed out, saying that was an example of a well‑functioning system producing concrete results.
In the developing world, countries with more flexible labour markets had been rewarded, while those with regulation had been penalized, he continued. On the other hand, a World Bank survey showed that there was no link between labour market flexibility and employment growth, he noted. Basic regulations, meanwhile, prevented abuse, especially of workers more subject to discrimination, such as women. It set a basis for income and conditions, he added, citing Brazil, where unions had forced an increased minimum wage. That had not led to a decrease in employment but, in fact, to reduced inequalities, which was something all countries should seek to achieve.
Mr. La Marca said there was a long‑term crisis of unemployment and underemployment, with the job creation rate too slow at just 0.8 per cent. It was necessary to recover to pre‑crisis levels through actions centred on an employment model focused on recovering jobs, he said, describing the ILO’s Global Job Pact as a framework based on good practices and the road towards a more “job‑intensive” recovery.
He also stressed the importance of universal social‑protection measures, which could mitigate the crisis in various ways and were not costly, especially when compared to their benefits. However, inflation must be avoided when pursuing an active employment policy. He called for the urgent reform of national economic systems in the developed countries to give more help to small and medium‑sized enterprises, pointing out that despite agreement on that, the pace of reform had been slow. Diversification of productive structures to develop aggregate demand on a national level would help economies become less vulnerable, he said.
Mr. Norman, taking on the issue of jobless growth, quoted figures for the United States, India and China showing that job creation was failing to match growth, and said that one possible solution was to focus on the composition of public expenditures. Infrastructure expenditure, for example, was employment-intensive and projects had great potential to create jobs. Focusing on professions that benefited women as consumers and employees would also help, he continued.
Another issue was the composition of credit, he said, adding that small and medium‑sized enterprises should receive more of it. The credit restraint they faced was a major reason for jobless growth. As for “green jobs” he said the “green economy” would destroy as well as create jobs. It was important to identify how greening could have a net positive employment impact. Doing so would be a “win‑win”, he said, cautioning, however, that it would require a more thorough thinking through of policy choices.
Mr. Greene emphasized that the private sector responded to its operating environment and that private enterprise, at its most basic level, was an individual exercise. Therefore an environment conducive to enterprise would lead to responses from individuals. People who lost their jobs would have the option of becoming self‑employed, if it were easy to start enterprises. He encouraged all countries actively to promote entrepreneurship, while also focusing on creating conducive operating environments.
He went on to describe any discussion of technology as a “dead end” unless it was linked to productivity, emphasizing that it was the only route to growth in the United States, where employment‑intensive growth would not work. Technology would play a role in producing improvements, and it was even helping to create jobs in some fast‑emerging economies. He cautioned against a return to protectionism, citing the broad social benefits of trade. Despite some negative impacts, its benefits were broadly distributed and that must keep going, he added.
Several speakers asked about the precarious and evolving role of technology, education and gender in the current global economy, with the panellists responding that apprenticeship, entrepreneurship and an innovative skill-set would be important in securing employment in the medium term.
Mr. Greene said early exposure to a business mindset was key to promoting youth employment. Young people should not wait to get out of college before seeking work. Education was also undergoing significant reform, he noted, stressing that young people today must learn the right skills and be taught how to apply them in the ever‑changing global economy.
Responding to a question about technology replacing people in employment, he said the relationship between technology and employment was still evolving and would continue to do so. The solution was to have the right education and skill set to be able to market oneself as employable in a changing economy.
Ms. Puri added that the “jury is still out” on the difference between labour‑displacing and job‑creating technology. Regarding technology in the area of job protection and creation, she said technology had eliminated many human jobs, adding that more attention must be paid to marking the distinction between the two.
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