Press Releases

    11 February 2005

    Speakers in Round-Table Discussion on Employment Stress Urgent Need to Develop Active National Policies with Particular Focus on Youth

    NEW YORK, 10 February (UN Headquarters) -- Describing “decent work” as the engine of economic growth and a vital tool in combating poverty, speakers at a round-table discussion this morning emphasized the urgent need to develop active national employment policies, focusing particularly on youth, and coherent international strategies in the field.

    One of three round tables during the ongoing high-level segment of the Commission on Social Development, the discussion focused on “promoting full employment”, a key theme of the 1995 Copenhagen World Summit on Social Development. The round table was chaired by Aart-Jan de Geus, the Minister for Social Affairs and Employment of the Netherlands.

    Opening the discussion, an official of the Youth Employment Network noted the “sad lack” of employment policies in international economic and social strategies. Emphasizing the need for a broad coalition of international organizations to lay down concrete strategies on employment creation, he said the world labour force would expand over the next decade by some 500 million people, who should be seen as assets, rather than problems.

    Similarly, other speakers stressed that an international objective on employment should be complemented with a global policy to increase it. France’s Minister of Labour said attempts should be made to harmonize economic, social and labour policies through such international bodies as the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions. Moreover, such a policy should also include plans to relieve debt for poor countries, which would release funding for development and the employment it would create.

    Efforts should also be intensified at the international level to remove prohibitive tariffs on developing-country goods and increase market access for their products, others said. Particularly affected were the employment-intensive agricultural and textile sectors, which provided not only employment but food security in many developing countries. No government could succeed alone in opening up employment opportunities, pointed out the Director of India’s Planning Commission, without the wider participation of the world community.

    Focusing on the need for national strategies to boost employment, the Vice-Minister for Social Protection of Colombia said that economic growth alone was insufficient in creating jobs, but must be complemented with active policies to promote them. In 1999, his country had suffered its deepest recession in 70 years, devastating employment opportunities, as well as social conditions. Reforms it had introduced to increase employment had included updating legislation to promote employment, new support mechanisms for the unemployed, employment-related budgetary allocations, and incentives for companies to hire new workers, particularly youth, women and disabled persons.

    To stimulate employment in his region, the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities said the European Community had encouraged nations to lay down employment-creating strategies and improve job quality, which had led to the creation of some 20 million new jobs in a time of economic slowdown. Emphasizing that full employment was not only a prerequisite for economic growth but vital in combating social exclusion, he added that underrepresented groups, such as young people and those over 50, must be integrated into labour markets.

    Outlining Argentina’s success in creating employment and emerging from financial crisis, an official of that country’s Ministry of Employment and Security said it had placed full employment, rather than traditional economic strategies that bled the poor, at the heart of its development strategy. Among other activities, Argentina had focused on economic expansion through increased export trading, which had added at least one point to gross domestic product. The country had also focused on policies to assist those affected by currency devaluation and inflation to regain their purchasing power.

    Several speakers expressed concern regarding poor employment opportunities for youth, who accounted for 47 per cent of the 186 million people unemployed worldwide. Warning of a potential “social explosion” of unemployed youth, the Minister of Labour for France stressed that labour market organization and training policies must include youth. Speakers also pointed to the link between globalization and employment. Stressing the need to breach the widening development and income gaps, the Minister for Labour, Youth Development and Sports of Tanzania emphasized that globalization should promote decent work, focusing on people’s welfare, as well as profits.

    Speakers also highlighted the need to direct official development assistance towards employment creation, as well as to transfer employment-creating experiences between nations. In that respect, an official of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said her organization’s Global Employment Agenda could be used in developing international, regional and national action plans for employment. Such plans should focus on microeconomics, as well as macroeconomics, the quantity and quality of work, an increase in the informal economy, increased productivity in agriculture, and supply and demand.

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