Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Opening Statement to the
Briefing on the ILO flagship report World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2016

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to join you in today’s briefing on the new ILO flagship report “World Employment and Social Outlook (WESO) – Trends 2016”.

The report provides the latest forecasts of unemployment trends around the world and also highlights the major labour market challenges that we continue to confront in an environment of weak global growth. We are currently seeing fundamental shifts in the way we work driven by technological shifts, population aging and stumbling global growth, as also highlighted in DESA’s recently published World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) 2016.

In my brief remarks today, I will focus on some key labour market challenges in the context of the current global economic environment and the broader 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Excellencies,

2015 was a momentous year for the United Nations, as we strived and succeeded in forging a global commitment to securing a better future for all. The UN Member States managed to reach three historic milestones that will guide our actions in the coming decades. The successful adoptions of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) confirm the universal commitment to protect our planet and to realize our vision of a world in which no one is left behind. It is now time for us to embark on implementing these commitments and making sustainable development a reality.

As we begin implementation, the world economy faces immense challenges. Both the WESP 2016 and the new WESO underscore that global economic growth weakened significantly last year and the outlook for the next few years is modest at best. The subdued growth performance has been accompanied by major changes in global macroeconomic conditions, most notably a sharp decline in commodity prices, large capital outflows from emerging economies and increased financial volatility.

In the WESP, we envisaged that these difficult and volatile conditions are likely to persist in the near-term – and the turbulent first few weeks of 2016 have already vindicated our premonition. The macroeconomic challenges for policymakers around the globe are expected to further intensify, and this will impact our universal efforts to realize sustainable development in all three of its dimensions – economic, social and environmental.

Excellencies,

The recent economic weakness has adversely affected labour markets around the world. We have seen deteriorating employment situations, particularly in countries that have been hit hard by the falling commodity prices, while also experiencing significant macroeconomic imbalances.

According to the new ILO estimates, global unemployment further increased in 2015. Worldwide, there are 27 million more unemployed people today than there were on the eve of the financial crisis. And this figure is expected to rise further in the coming two years.

Moreover, poor job quality remains a pressing issue worldwide. In South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, more than two thirds of workers still face vulnerable employment conditions. These workers have little or no access to social protection schemes, face high levels of job insecurity and suffer from low and volatile earnings. The challenges are further exacerbated by large gender gaps. Women earn lower wages, have a higher risk of being in vulnerable employment and are more likely to be among the working poor.

Excellencies,

The new universal development framework places productive employment and decent work for all at the heart of sustainable development. As the WESP and the new ILO report point out, there is a need to further strengthen and, in some cases, rethink and reorient existing labour market policies. To be effective, well-targeted employment policies must be integrated within comprehensive macroeconomic policy frameworks, tailored to the country-specific needs and priorities.

While daunting and complex, these challenges are not insurmountable, especially if we confront them with a collective resolve. Achieving the goal of decent and productive employment opportunities for all people will yield significant social as well as environmental dividends and will put the world on a more sustainable path.

Thank you.

Please check against delivery.

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