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Employment recovery depends on leadership, UN labour chief tells jobs summit

Employment recovery depends on leadership, UN labour chief tells jobs summit

The head of the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) told a global jobs summit in Geneva that leadership is crucial for rapid recovery of employment amid the ongoing economic downturn.

“The call of today is for leadership. Leadership at all levels,” ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said as the three-day forum, which includes the participation of nine heads of State and dozens of ministers, got underway.

“We are clear about the challenges we face,” he said. “The world cannot afford to wait for employment to come back, several years after economic growth has returned.

“Rapid recovery of employment and the accompanying social protection needs must be central to public policy and business decisions,” Mr. Somavia said. “At the same time, we need to build an efficient social market economy that will prevent relapsing into the excesses and inequalities of the past.

“And we must be attentive because we can already sense certain interests that just can't wait to go back to business as usual,” he said.

The ILO chief said the goal was known: “A world economy that works for all, delivers on decent work for women and men, social justice at home and a fair globalization in the world.”

What was needed to achieve the goal, he said, was, “leadership with a moral compass guiding action. Leadership that dares take new approaches; leadership to fix what has gone wrong; leadership that listens and opens doors; leadership to find common ground in a world of nations moulded in different cultures and realities; leadership that can deliver the national and international agreements that that put people first.”

He also called for international cooperation in trade, finance, development, environment, climate change, labour markets, decent work agreements, basic needs, food security, health and education.

“This summit can mobilize the leadership to overcome this crisis and chart a new course for a fair globalization bringing opportunities of decent work to all,” he said. “I am confident that the governments, employers and workers assembled here will return home energized by this conference, carrying with them the messages and solutions crafted here.”

This year’s ILO annual Conference, from 3-19 June, is debating how to protect workers, families and enterprises from the turmoil and how to promote speedy economic and employment recovery.

According to the agency, during the 2007-2009 period, between 210 million and 239 million persons would be unemployed, representing global unemployment rates of 6.5 and 7.4 per cent respectively, or increases of between 39 and 59 million unemployed people since 2007.

ILO projections indicate that 200 million workers are at risk of joining the ranks of people living on less than $2 per day between 2007 and 2009.

The summit, combined with the ILO’s annual conference, is the largest forum in the agency’s history. Among those participating are the leaders of Brazil, France, Togo, Mozambique, Finland, Argentina, Burkina Faso, Jamaica and Poland.