Wanted: 600 million jobs

Most people joining the global workforce today will only have a few years of school with limited skills to make a living. Most will toil from dawn to dusk in harsh conditions, usually in agriculture or demanding physical labour, earning less than $1.25 per day. Some of the lucky ones with university degrees will take a job that undervalues them. This is a reality that ECOSOC and the ILO wish to change.

Nearly 839 million workers in developing countries, 27 percent of global employment, are unable to earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the poverty threshold. There are 75 million unemployed young people today and those who are employed earn less than the living wage. Unemployment and underemployment are a major issue in many countries, regardless of their level of development. On top of all this, many of the world’s workplaces leave big carbon footprints.

In order to generate 45 million new jobs each year for new entrants to the labour market, and provide jobs for those who have lost theirs due to the impact of the financial and economic crises, the world must create 600 million jobs over the next decade. Will these be decent jobs with fair remuneration, good working conditions and respect for their rights at work?

Will these jobs take into account the impact on the environment of their activities? Or will they create greater income inequalities leaving many behind? Or will they continue to pollute the environment that will increase water- and airborne illnesses, destroying arable land and increasing the acidification of the oceans which support life on earth?

Creating decent work opportunities

With much at stake, the theme for the 2015 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Integration segment will focus on, “Achieving sustainable development through employment creation and decent work for all.”

“The race is on, and now is the time for leaders to step up and steer the world towards a safer future”

Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary-General

The three day session, starting on 30 March, will provide an opportunity for Member States, civil society, trade unions, the private sector, academia and other key actors to discuss and elaborate upon how employment creation and decent work for all could help promote the balanced integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

Participants will include Heads of State and Government, Ministers, ILO’s tripartite constituency, local governments, the United Nations system, foundations, NGOs, academia and the private sector.

In order to optimize the opportunities for an integrated and constructive discussion, the conference will stage roundtable sessions, where representatives from diverse sectors are asked to focus on ways to promote policy convergence based on country experiences, good practices and lessons learned.

As ECOSOC President Martin Sajdik has underscored, ECOSOC is the central hub for engaging global actors and for mobilizing action on the most pressing challenges of our time.

Jobs for climate smart future

We are now at a tipping point in how we use the earth’s resources and build a more sustainable future, an important focus throughout the event. Participants will discuss the types of jobs that are needed to provide solutions to climate change and which policies are required for effective implementation. They will examine which investments could generate the greatest job potential while maintaining environmental sustainability.

Informal economy will be discussed on the session’s first day. This term refers to the very large proportion of people in developing countries who work without a formal contract. Poor employment conditions are often characterized by compulsory overtime or extra shifts without pay, ”at-will” employment contracts, unsafe working conditions and the absence of social benefits such as pensions, paid sick leave, maternity leave and health insurance.

Unemployment and informal employment remains a particular concern in Africa, particularly among young people. The continent will therefore, be in the spotlight on the second day of the meeting, where participants aim to find an answer to the question: How can sustained economic growth be translated into decent work in African countries?

Taking the high road to growth

Seeing that economic growth is essential in many parts of the world, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has been advocating that Member States support decent work which includes respect for international labour standards, a voice at work, well-functioning labour management relations and sharing fairly in the profits that they have helped generate.

Participants will, on the second day of the integration segment, discuss how the normative framework set out by the ILO Conventions, especially the eight fundamental Conventions, to help reduce human exploitation and encourage innovation and higher level of productivity.

Creating 600 million jobs in a decade is a real challenge, making them green and decent is probably an even greater challenge.

When Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the Climate Summit in September 2014, he expressed confidence in the task at hand. “Solutions exist and we are already seeing significant changes in government policies and investments in sustainable ways of living and doing business,” Mr. Ban said. “The race is on, and now is the time for leaders to step up and steer the world towards a safer future.”

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder expressed faith in the creation of a well-functioning labor market, and has urged a ”process of social dialogue which embodies the basic democratic principle that people affected by decisions should have a voice in constantly renewing the social contract that is so vital to sustainable development.”

The ECOSOC Integration segment will result in a set of policy recommendations for integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development through the creation of new jobs and promotion of decent work.The recommendations will then be available for consideration at the upcoming ECOSOC High-Level Segment and High-Level Political Forum that is scheduled to take place in July.

For more information:

ECOSOC Integration Segment