Nobel laureate in economics says world leaders should back UN's labour goals

2 November 2001

Nobel economics laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz today urged world political and economic leaders to back the United Nations International Labour Organization's (ILO) goals of decent work, full employment and better working conditions for all people.

Speaking on the second day of a three-day Global Employment Forum at the ILO headquarters in Geneva, Professor Stiglitz argued that current international policies often fail to take account of the human value of labour, instead treating it as a commodity.

"Equitable, sustainable and democratic development requires basic labour rights, including freedom of association and collective bargaining," he said.

Professor Stiglitz also noted that labour policies in many countries had been "subsumed" under broader economic policies often dominated by commercial and financial interests. "For too long, labour has [been] acquiescent, sometimes becoming an even more effective advocate of the policies than those whose interests they serve," he said.

The Forum has drawn some 700 political and economic officials to discuss the theme of "Creating Decent Work in the 21st Century" and address what ILO Director-General Juan Somavia has called the "biggest threats to human security affecting the largest number of people - rising unemployment and poverty."


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