UNITED NATIONS, May 31, (APP): Nearly 5,000 delegates Thursday kicked off a United Nations forum in Geneva focusing on the global jobs crisis and its impact on youth, as well as social protection and rights at work. The 101st International Labour Conference comes at a time when around 30 million people have been added to the unemployed since the 2008 financial crisis, and nearly 40 million more have stopped looking for employment, according to the Geneva-based UN International Labour Organization (ILO). “We know that it’s time for a policy rethink,” ILO’s Director-General, Juan Somavia, told the opening session, noting that some 45-50 million new jobs are needed each year, over the next five years, just to get back to the pre-crisis job situation.
Somavia highlighted, in particular, the impact of the crisis on the world’s young people, noting that “we have been failing our young women and men for some time now.”
Generally, youth jobless rates are nearly three times that of adults. This is without the many millions worldwide who have become discouraged and stopped looking for work.
Furthermore, those who do get a job
are likely to be working part time, on temporary contracts, in the
informal economy, or precarious work, he said.
There is little intergenerational
solidarity when the adult generation who formulates policy, lets the
young generation carry a heavy share of the burden of the crises. To
involve youth in the ILO conference discussions, the agency held 46
consultations with some 5,000 youth representatives across regions,
culminating in the World Youth Forum held last week in Geneva, ahead of
This is innovation at work, said
Somavia. The several thousands who assembled in these forums and online
are the beginnings of an ILO youth network to connect us with the ideas
and needs of young women and men.
Discussions over the next two weeks
will also focus on the elaboration of a recommendation on the issue of
social protection. Only 20 per cent of the world’s population has
adequate social security coverage and more than half lack any coverage
at all, according to the ILO, which actively promotes policies and
provides assistance to countries to help extend adequate levels of
social protection to all members of society.
Establishing social protection
floors, respecting the diversity of country situations, is about
promoting human dignity, said Somavia. It is a basic contribution to
reduce poverty, to empower people and to expand aggregate economic
demand. It is a commitment to a decent society, a platform that enables
hundreds of millions of women, men and children to progress on a strong
footing. Also on the agenda is promoting fundamental principles and
rights at work, which the Director-General said takes on even greater
significance amid a weak and fragile global recovery.
The discussions will be critical in
securing more effective action for their realization, he stated, adding
that greater respect for what are today universally accepted basic
‘rules of the game’ for the world of work is urgently needed. Somavia,
who will step down as ILO chief in September, reminded delegates to keep
in mind how much their discussions over the next two weeks make a
difference to the world.
“I call on you to visualize the
expectations of youth struggling for quality jobs, of people living in
poverty for social protection, of workers’ demand for fundamental
rights,” he said. The 101st International Labour Conference will also
discuss the situation in Myanmar and hear an address by Aung San Suu
Kyi, Nobel laureate and Chairperson of the National League for Democracy
in Myanmar, on 14 June.