UN social development commission opens session with call for action on jobs

UN social development commission opens session with call for action on jobs

José  Antonio Ocampo
The United Nations Commission for Social Development opened its annual session today in New York with a call for the adoption of policies that will ensure that economic growth generates employment to help fight poverty.

The United Nations Commission for Social Development opened its annual session today in New York with a call for the adoption of policies that will ensure that economic growth generates employment to help fight poverty.

“Globalization has increased interdependence among countries, leaving governments limited policy space to increase employment levels on their own through more expansionary macroeconomic policies,” said Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo.

He called for better coordination of macroeconomic policy among countries to achieve the goal of full employment and decent work.

Active labour market policies should facilitate smoother adjustment to changes in the global structure of production, he said, calling for retraining for displaced workers, job search assistance and measures to facilitate labour mobility.

The issue of social protection also needed to be addressed, he said, as improved social security systems were key elements of a comprehensive approach to eradicating poverty. It was also important to arrest any “race to the bottom” in labour standards in those developing countries that had managed to become part of global production systems.

“Economic growth is failing to translate into new and better jobs,” Les Kettledas, the Deputy Director-General of South Africa’s Labour Department told the meeting at UN Headquarters in New York.

He pointed to a new UN report which found the robust growth of global economic output – 3.8 per cent a year in the last decade – had not made a dent in global unemployment, with the number of unemployed worldwide rising 22 per cent to 195 million people.

“The world is facing various decent work deficits,” he said, “characterized by high and exploding numbers of unemployment and underemployment, poor-quality and unproductive jobs, unsafe work and insecure income.”

South Africa, like other countries, was facing the dual challenge of creating new jobs and at the same time improving the existing ones, Mr. Kettledas said. “But is decent work achievable in an era of globalization characterized by the liberalization of economies and labour market flexibility and deregulation?”

Achieving full employment and decent work required a closer relationship between social and economic policies, he said, with macroeconomic frameworks addressing both economic and social goals.

“The social and economic objectives should complement each other and not be seen as opposing poles,” he said, adding that labour market policies should facilitate the matching of labour supply and demand in the face of changing market trends and work restructuring.

“There are significant benefits to be gained from adopting the decent work approach,” Joan Burke of the NGO Committee on Social Development told the Commission in a speech delivered on behalf of civil society. That approach included employment and income-generating policies, social dialogue, social protection, and voice and rights in the workplace, and should be fully incorporated into national strategies.

The number of unemployed was at an historical high of 195.2 million in 2006, according to the United Nations, and their number rose 21.9 per cent in the last decade.

In its ten-day meeting, the Commission for Social Development will also address youth, ageing and disability matters, with youth unemployment as an emerging issue.