23 May 2014

Secretary-General, at General Assembly Meeting, Stresses Need to Make Employment ‘A Priority, Not an Afterthought’

23 May 2014
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, at General Assembly Meeting, Stresses Need


to Make Employment ‘A Priority, Not an Afterthought’


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on “Achieving Poverty Eradication through Full Employment and Decent Work for All in the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, in New York today:

Thank you for coming together to reaffirm the essential connection between poverty eradication and decent work.

You cannot wipe out poverty without jobs.  This understanding is at the heart of the Millennium Declaration.  It also reflects the concerns and priorities of people.

I have heard it time and again in my travels around the world.  People do not say:  “Give me charity.”  They do not ask:  “Where are my handouts?”  They say:  “We want jobs.  We want to be productive.  We want the tools to build our own future.”  At its essence, this is a call for human dignity — the dignity and respect that comes from decent work.

This has been a clear message of the national and thematic consultations on the post-2015 agenda.  You are here to help make sure this core concern of people is echoed in policies as we accelerate efforts to achieve the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) by 2015 — and as we elaborate our common development agenda for the years to come.

Today, a large number of workers in developing countries remain trapped in informal and vulnerable jobs with little protection.  Unemployment remains stubbornly high.  Progress in reducing poverty has stagnated.  Opportunities for secure jobs that provide a fair income and decent working conditions remain limited.  Women are especially affected and bear the added burden of unpaid care work.  Youth unemployment is at alarmingly high levels around the world.

We all understand that economic growth is essential.  But we also know that growth does not automatically mean jobs.  We need to go deeper by making employment a priority, not an afterthought.  Let me point to four ways to meet that goal.

First, we must ensure that growth is inclusive and leaves no one behind.  Actions are needed so that men, women, and youth have access to decent work and social protection floors.  Labour-market policies should put a special focus on young people, women and people with disabilities.

Second, we must invest in people — in education, skills development, health care.  This will help equip people for decent jobs and incomes.  It will boost purchasing power.  The virtuous cycle between human capital, jobs and income is central to building healthy local markets and a healthy world economy.  It is good for people and good for business.

Third, we must invest in sustainable development.  Through investing in a green economy, Governments and companies can create jobs for those who need them most.  This will foster new initiatives on food and water security, and green investments to promote renewable energy and stop global warming.

Fourth, we need to ensure more and better information about the reality of labour markets.  We continue to be constrained by insufficient data on gender, wages and the duration, security and quality of employment.  It is time for a concerted global push to improve the national collection of statistics.

Employment and decent work have clear connections to every dimension of sustainable development.  Employment is also essential to achieve food security, gender equality and equitable, inclusive peaceful societies.

This meeting can help place employment and decent work at the heart of the discussions on the post-2015 development agenda.  In the process, we can do more than help people escape poverty; we can help ensure they truly live a life of dignity.

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