UN meeting examines challenges faced by postal, telecommunications industries

UN meeting examines challenges faced by postal, telecommunications industries

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The postal and telecommunications industries are facing serious difficulties caused by emerging information and communication technologies, globalization and debt, according to the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO), which opened a weeklong meeting in Geneva today aimed at minimizing the impact of these problems on workers.

The meeting in Geneva is attracting the participation of representatives of workers, employers and governments, who will discuss an ILO report, entitled “Employment, employability and equal opportunities in the postal and telecommunications services.” The study examines employment trends in these industries in a wide range of countries, explores ways in which training and retraining can allow some 12 million workers in these services to adapt to change, and reviews measures to promote equal opportunities within postal and telecommunications enterprises around the world.

Over the past two years, many phone companies have become exposed to heavy debts, causing a much faster pace of job cuts, drastic declines in their stock values, and some bankruptcies, according to the report. At the same time, postal services have undergone major structural and regulatory changes in recent years, resulting in the privatization of parts of the industry, which is increasingly being opened up to competition.

The report documents the broad scope of these services, noting that there are some 700,000 permanent post offices worldwide employing around 6 million people, processing more than 1 billion mail items each day, and generating global revenues approximating $200 billion each year. The telecommunications services sector is estimated to have had revenues of $1,010 billion in 2001, and employs around 6 million workers.