Press Conference on International Labour Organization's Call for Action on Youth Employment Crisis

2 July 2012

Press Conference on International Labour Organization's Call for Action on Youth Employment Crisis

2 July 2012
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on international labour organizaton’s


call for action on youth employment crisis


Global labour leaders unveiled at Headquarters today a comprehensive, multipronged strategy aimed at tackling the global youth unemployment crisis, which has already put 75 million young people worldwide on the unemployment line and forced more than 200 million to work for less than $2 a day.

Juan Somavía Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said the “Call for Action” document, adopted at the 30 May—14 June International Labour Organization Conference in Geneva, outlines pro-employment macroeconomic policies; education and skills training to boost youth employability; labour market policies and social protection; youth entrepreneurship; and respect for youth’s labour rights.

It draws on inputs from 5,000 leaders of youth organizations, gathered during 46 national consultations in regions around the world, and offers Governments guidance on how to make youth employment a priority while ensuring fiscal sustainability, Mr. Somavia said.  “We believe that by putting these two things together we are putting on the table a very practical policy instrument.”  Accompanying Mr. Somavia were Tan Sri Dato’ Azman Shah Haron, President of the International Organization of Employers (IOE), and Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Ms. Burrows, describing the “Call for Action” document as critical, expressed hope that the Economic and Social Council would endorse it in the context of a new economic model.  “The world needs jobs, jobs and jobs,” she emphasized, citing 50 per cent unemployment among youth in some economies.  Employed workers and decent jobs — not speculative activity in the finance sector and attacks on workers’ rights — would drive the economy out of the current crisis, she said.

Research in 12 countries showed that investing 2 per cent of gross domestic product annually over five years would create 48 million jobs, she continued.  It was also vital to invest in and create regulatory frameworks to ensure social protection floors.  “When you invest in basic incomes, in child protection, in health, in maternity protection, and then in the UN priorities, education for all, housing and sanitation, you achieve the Millennium Development Goals almost overnight,” she said.

Mr. Haron agreed that job creation was the key component of economic growth around the world, but stressed that not enough was being done to give people incentives to grow their businesses, which was crucial for avoiding balance-sheet and market losses.  On the basis of World Bank recommendations, the Government of Malaysia was taking steps in that direction, he said, urging others to follow suit.

Asked whether the outcome document from the recent United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) took such issues sufficiently into account, Mr. Somavia said that while the Conference had not produced a breakthrough global agreement on a new model of growth and globalization, it did in fact prevent backsliding on previously agreed issues like cooperatives and the ILO Decent Work Agenda, while also incorporating new goals.  Additionally, the outcome document’s call to create Sustainable Development Goals was a step forward.

However, Ms. Burrow was quick to point out that the document set neither time-bound targets on those goals nor financial commitments to devise social protection floors, as called for by ILO.  Regrettably, there was “not one commitment to coordinated action starting now” on a financial transactions tax, bunker fuel levy and an airlines tax, she said, adding that leaders had spent no time negotiating a text, opting instead to accept a document agreed by diplomats and Government negotiators.

Mr. Haron, concurring that there had been much talk, but little action at Rio+20, called for more investment in green businesses and tourism, both of which created jobs.

Asked about specific incentives to tackle youth unemployment in Europe, Mr. Haron said that Asia’s steady economic growth in the last decade had been fuelled by the creation of productive work, particularly in infrastructure, thanks to Government grants and funds established for that purpose.  Nations with surplus funds like China, as well as those of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, should do their part to spur job creation in cash-strapped Europe and elsewhere.

Ms. Burrow said that by 2050, the world would have to produce 50 per cent more food and 45 per cent more energy, and to supply 30 per cent more water to meet the global population’s needs.  That demand had great job-creating potential, she noted, calling for investment in the green economy and areas such as the mature grain bond market.

Mr. Somavia stressed that Europe must pull out of its austerity-induced recession and that European Governments must forge better private-public partnerships, providing guarantees to banks that lent funds for job-creating investments and enterprise.

Asked how to create jobs in post-conflict countries, Mr. Somavia underlined that real political stability came not just from ceasefires and elections, but also from job creation.  Post-conflict Governments must have the political conviction to recognize that and put policies in place to foster it.

Ms. Burrow added that the creation of social protection floors, business confidence and robust regulatory civil service environments was critical, yet the necessary formats were lacking in many post-conflict Arab countries.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.