Sustainable approach to growth crucial in Asia, says top UN official

Sustainable approach to growth crucial in Asia, says top UN official

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A sustainable approach to development is crucial to keep pace with Asia’s unprecedented economic growth, Director-General Juan Somavia of the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) said at a three-day conference wrapping up today in Beijing, calling for national measures across the continent to ensure social welfare.

The “job-weak growth” is “not politically sustainable over the long run because underlying it all are different forms of social tensions already expressing themselves in different ways,” he said in an address to delegates at an ILO Asian Forum on Growth, Employment and Decent Work.

The Forum is the first major gathering of senior government, labour and employer representatives from nearly two dozen countries in Asia and the Pacific since the launch of the Decent Work Decade at the ILO’s Asian regional meeting last year.

Participants – including representatives of finance and planning ministries, academics and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – discussed how create policies aimed to integrate sustainable development and decent work.

Mr. Somavia stressed that Asian countries share commonalities, and that the “time has come to strive for a social floor in every country according to its means, pursued as a systematic national and international development objective to expand the security of its people.”

For example, he cited as a strategy “a basic income, health care and education package – together with organization, rights at work and empowerment to voice and defend their interests.”

When combined, “these measures can no doubt enhance growth and productivity,” Mr. Somavia noted. “But they are also justified by the enormous growth in wealth creation that has been taking place.”

During the conference, participants also conferred on a new ILO report entitled “Visions for Asia's Decent Work Decade: Sustainable Growth and Jobs to 2015” said that the continent’s vast labour force, already estimated at some 1.8 billion workers, is expected to grow by more than 200 million by the year 2015, posing a series of environmental, economic and social challenges to the region’s rapidly growing economies.

The report calls for an effective balance between flexibility, stability and security through improved labour market governance, including the adoption and adherence to international labour standards, improving accountability and transparency, and building the capacity of employers and workers to engage more effectively in serious dialogue.

It also warns that growth and sustainable development could be seriously undermined by environmental degradation, depletion of natural resources and climate change, and stresses the need for governments, employers and workers to develop policy tools aimed at achieving environmentally sustainable development and job creation.