3 July 2006

Economic and Social Council High-Level Meeting in Geneva to Focus on Fighting Poverty through Job Creation, 3 - 5 July

GENEVA, 30 June -- Possible solutions for the world's employment crisis -- more than half of the world's workforce is unable to earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the $2 a day poverty line -- will be assessed by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in a high-level meeting from 3 to 5 July.  The Council is the main United Nations body for coordinating and monitoring development policy and activities.

The meeting, which will be attended by leaders from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations, will also review the state of the world's economic situation.  At a time when the United Nations is implementing important reforms, the Council will also consider new measures that will allow it to play a more aggressive role in addressing development issues, as well as in determining whether the United Nations can, or should, restructure itself to better confront development challenges.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg will present keynote addresses on the employment problem, along with Tunisian Labour Minister Chadli Laroussi and Juan Somavía, Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown will deliver the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan.  United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, WTO Deputy Director-General Valentine Rugwabiza, World Bank Chief Economist François Bourguignon; IMF Special Representative to the United Nations Reinhard Munzberg, and United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo will report on significant economic trends and challenges.

The Economic and Social Council coordinates the work of the 14 United Nations specialized agencies, 10 functional commissions and five regional commissions; receives reports from 10 UN funds and programmes; and issues policy recommendations to the UN system and to Member States.  The 54-member Council meets every year, alternating between New York and Geneva.  The President of this year's Council is Ambassador Ali Hachani of Tunisia.

The issue of decent work -- dignified work that allows people to properly support themselves and their families -- has gained momentum since last year's World Summit where world leaders resolved "to make full and productive employment and decent work" a central objective in national  and international policies.

Unable to Work Out of Extreme Poverty

At present, about half of the world's work force lives in extreme poverty and is unable to earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the $2 a day poverty line.  Despite major economic growth in many regions, the total number of "working poor" has remained virtually unchanged over the last decade at 1.4 billion.

The high-level ECOSOC discussions are expected to result in a joint agreement outlining the steps that countries can take, individually and collectively, to create more productive employment opportunities.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his report to ECOSOC, said the number of unemployed, globally, is increasing, and, in 2005, about 192 million people were out of work.  But three times as many people are working at jobs that do not allow them to escape from extreme poverty on an income equivalent to $1 a day.  Most of the working poor, the report found, work in rural areas and in the urban informal sector which now comprises one half to three quarters of non-agricultural employment in developing countries.  Almost half of the world's unemployed are young people, even though youth make up only a quarter of the working-age population.

The report found that countries face the difficult task of creating and upgrading jobs at a time when the effective supply of labour has grown due to globalization, the participation of more people in the labour force and growing populations, particularly in many developing countries.

While globalization has also helped fuel growth and employment in some places, the policy decisions of Governments and international organizations have often failed to consider the impact on employment during the transition phase to more open global markets.  Global competitive pressure, the report found, has not only led to a greater emphasis on wage flexibility, a reduction in regulations and taxes and a reduction in employment; these changes have occurred at a time when there has been a dilution of labour bargaining power and reduced government expenditures in areas that are vital to the poor, such as health, education and social protection systems.

The Secretary-General's report suggests that countries make a political commitment to achieve full and productive employment and integrate this goal into national development and growth strategies.  The international community, the report adds, must also adopt this goal and pursue it through macroeconomic and trade policies taken at the global level.

For more information, please contact Olav Huslid in Geneva at tel: +41 22 917 23 25, fax: +41 22 917 00 30; or Dan Shepard in New York, Development Section, Department of Public Information, tel: 212-963-9495, e-mail: .

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