ILO Director-General warns of threat to social justice at meeting with Chancellor Scholz and other international organization

BERLIN (ILO News) – The ILO Director-General, Gilbert F. Houngbo, has highlighted the impact of the sharp global labour market slowdown, saying that the current uncertainty “paints a very worrying picture for social justice.” The Director-General was speaking following the annual meeting in Berlin of heads of international organizations and the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz.

Low-income groups, he said, have been particularly hard hit by rising inflation and negative wage growth, which have reduced consumer purchasing power.

He also outlined the growth in informal jobs in developing countries and a continuing divergence in employment growth between high-income and middle-income countries.

“While delivering abundance for a few, our economic system is failing to deliver sufficient resources for the growing majority who are in need,” he said.

Houngbo called for a restoration of social justice which, he said, was necessary to forge “an inclusive and resilient recovery.”

Agreements on job creation, social protection and decent work

The Director-general of the ILO has agreed to increase cooperation with the World Bank and the German government to expand and better coordinate work on social protection and decent work.

The ILO and World Bank will leverage their respective strengths and integrate their support more strategically, to provide more support to developing and emerging economies in building up their social protection systems and creating decent jobs.

The announcement was made at a joint press conference, during ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo’s visit to the German capital, Berlin. His trip included a meeting on social protection and decent work, organized as part of Germany’s Presidency of the G7 group.

The ILO Director-General, German Development Minister, Svenja Schulze, and the World Bank Managing Director for Development Policy and Partnerships, Mari Pangestu, also agreed to expand joint support for digital solutions in social protection, and ensure a strong role for social protection systems in the Global Shield against Climate Risks, which was jointly launched by Germany, in its capacity as President of the G7, with the V20 (Vulnerable Twenty), during the COP27 climate change conference in Egypt earlier this month.

“It is simply unacceptable that half of the global population – 4 billion people – is left unprotected, and that many more cannot count on adequate social protection,” said Houngbo. “The joint support we have agreed on today will enhance our capacities to support countries in reinforcing their social protection systems and will contribute to the UN Secretary General’s Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions, and our common agenda for sustainable development, decent work and social justice.”

Mari Pangestu highlighted the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic about the importance of social protection in weathering the negative effects of the crisis.

“We share a common vision, expressed in the Global Accelerator and the World Bank’s Social Protection and Jobs (SPJ) Compass, to strengthen adaptive social protection systems as the backbone for building more cohesive, resilient, and just societies. We look forward to joining forces with national, international, private sector and civil society partners to take collective action so that comprehensive and adaptive social protection and jobs systems can help to build resilience and engender a sustainable escape from poverty, under country leadership,” she said.

ILO-BMZ Joint Declaration

In a separate development, the ILO and Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) agreed a joint declaration to scale up cooperation on promoting decent work worldwide.

The joint declaration focusses on employment creation and decent work, social protection, sustainable global supply chains and gender equality in the world of work.

It confirms existing areas of cooperation and sets out areas in which collaboration should be expanded in order to address the challenges facing global labour markets, particularly in developing and emerging economies. These include:

  • Employment creation and support for the integration of refugees, internally displaced persons and vulnerable populations in host communities and crisis situations.
  • Improving working conditions, occupational safety and health, productivity, social dialogue and wage-setting processes through job creation and cooperation with the private sector.
  • Skills development that responds to labour market needs and the strengthening of labour market institutions.
  • Transforming global supply chains, including the elimination of forced labour and child labour, particularly the worst forms of child labour.
  • Employment creation and skills promotion in the green sectors.
  • Social protection for workers in formal and informal employment, with a focus on the care economy as an area for employment promotion.
  • Promoting gender equality and participation in the world of work, particularly targeting women, girls and marginalised groups.

“Decent work is a central lever for fighting poverty,” said Schulze. “It helps boost resilience in times of crisis and has a stabilising effect on social cohesion. Because of that, creating decent jobs and improving working conditions in global supply chains are both an objective and an aspiration of German development policy.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a key strategic partner for the BMZ. I am very pleased that, in my meeting today with the ILO’s new Director-General Gilbert Houngbo, we have been able to map out joint priorities for us to work on together in an even closer partnership of cooperation in the future.”

The G7 group of countries have committed to increase their support for green jobs and green skills development in developing and emerging countries until 2025. The ILO is providing expertise to support the implementation of this commitment. A first joint project between the ILO and BMZ will promote women’s employment in green sectors in Senegal, commencing in 2023.

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