ECOSOC talks green jobs, income inequality and unemployment

On day two of the ECOSOC integration segment titled: “Achieving sustainable development through employment creation and decent work for all,” the international community looked at how climate change challenges could be met through creating decent jobs, how dignity and prosperity could become the norm for working people, and how policies could translate sustained economic growth in Africa into “broad-based and job-rich outcomes” towards inclusive sustainable development.

Michael Renner, Senior Researcher at the World Watch Institute, who moderated the first panel of the day, “Solutions to Climate Change:  Growing Decent Jobs”, said that the link between climate challenges and decent work was clear.  Economic prosperity depended on a stable climate and healthy economic systems.  With the right policies in place, the shift to a sustainable economy could increase job production and social inclusion.

Indeed, Robert Pollin, Professor at the Political Economy Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts, said that a 1.5 per cent annual investment in clean energy over and above other investments would result in a 40 per cent reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions.

It would also create a significant net value impact on employment, even allowing for the 30 to 40 per cent contraction in the fossil fuel sector, because producing renewable energy was more labour intensive. That investment would mitigate the need to import energy sources, as renewable energy was generally produced domestically, thus energizing local economies. He estimated a net gain of some 150 per cent in job creation per $1 million of expenditure.

Despite such innovative approaches, Phil Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, speaking on the second panel, “Making Dignity and Prosperity the Norm”, said that organizing workers had become a battle.  It was no accident that income had gravitated to the top 10 per cent at the same time that union density had declined.

“The more you weaken your labour union movement, the more unequal economically your country will become,” he said.  The writing on the wall was clear on income inequality.  “Take it seriously,” he said.  “It is a threat to countries, societies, neighbourhoods and individuals.” Describing the International Labour Organization (ILO) as “our Security Council and our peacekeepers”, he called for the full observance of that organization’s core documents by Governments and business.

Guy Ryder, Director-General of ILO, said real progress towards dignity and prosperity required a package of overlapping measures aimed at ending abject poverty.  ILO affirmed that guaranteeing the rights of workers was critical to allowing them to claim freely their fair share of the wealth they had helped to generate.

He said the scale and complexity presented by the challenges of sustainable development demanded ambitious collective action, not only from Governments, but also from all other stakeholders. Guaranteeing rights were essential to the implementation of the new development agenda, perhaps even more so than finance. Making dignity and prosperity the norm was central to sustainable development and decent work was the glue.

Speaking from the third panel of the day, “At Work in Africa”, Hakim Ben Hammouda, Former Minister for Finance of Tunisia, and Special Adviser to the African Development Bank President, said that recent economic recovery had been job poor. That was particularly true of Africa, which would, according to estimates, achieved economic growth of 5 per cent in 2015, the highest of any region. Even so, the continent had lost the most jobs of any region.

Aeneas Chuma, Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa of ILO, said that the negative aspects of the informal sector, which employed 9 out of 10 workers, far outweighed the positive aspects.

Breaking out of informality was a major development goal. For ILO, the most important actions were promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises, creation of a regulatory environment that protected worker’s rights and their ability to negotiate, and the development of a social protection floor.  Employment-friendly growth was a large part of formalizing an economy.

Ebrahim Patel, Minister for Economic Development of South Africa said that Africa was faced with deep structural problems rooted in the colonial experience, in which Africa had been the supplier of raw materials. Fast growth, although needed, would not change those structural problems. “Jobs-rich” growth had to be encouraged. In addition, it was necessary to widen and deepen markets, which required integration of Africa. For that purpose, a free trade area of 26 countries was under negotiation.

Delegates today also heard assessments of progress made 20 years after the fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen, and participated in a general debate on the topics discussed during the panels.

Source: UN News Center 

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