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By Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization (ILO)
Director General, International Labour Organisation

DG-portrait-3-767This year’s G20 theme under the Argentine presidency is “Building Consensus for Fair and Sustainable Development”. It deepens the Leaders’ 2017 commitment in Hamburg “to promote greater inclusiveness, fairness and equality in our pursuit of economic growth and job creation”.  Argentina brings to the presidency the perspective of Latin America and the Caribbean, in particular the region’s desire to reduce poverty and promote more inclusive societies in this rapidly changing world.  Through that lens, Argentina has identified three priorities to drive the work of the G20: the future of work, infrastructure for development and a sustainable food future.

The priorities chosen by the Argentinian presidency come at the right time. Although the world economy has rebounded and economic growth is expected to remain stable over the next few years, major challenges persist in the employment arena. Some of them are not new, while others are related to future challenges in the world of work. The unemployment rate in G20 countries overall has decreased by 0.5 percentage points since its peak in 2009 but employment is stagnating in G20 emerging countries. Youth unemployment (13.5 per cent in 2017) remains a major concern and is on average 2.5 times higher than the overall unemployment rate. While the gender gap in labour force participation rate decreased by 30 per cent in advanced G20 countries over the last 20 years, it increased by seven per cent in emerging G20 countries. And globally, the number of workers in extreme poverty stands at over 300 million.

Labour market challenges are compounded by technological, climate and demographic change. However, the idea of skills and lifelong learning being a means to achieve inclusive growth and decent work is gaining acceptance. Enhanced skills development systems should allow people to embrace and adapt to technological change, facilitating dynamic learning over the life cycle so that people keep pace with digitalization and other factors of change.18643831945_c79c82fcee_b

Much hard work lies ahead in terms of social protection, a priority of the Argentinian presidency: only 29 per cent of the global population enjoys access to comprehensive social security while the other 71 per cent, or 5.2 billion people, are not, or only partially, protected. Contributory social protection schemes need to be better adapted to labour market characteristics, particularly to the increasing number of workers in non-standard forms of employment, including those in the platform economy. Such schemes should also be open to workers in informal employment. The latter group is particularly important for emerging G20 countries, where informal employment remains stagnant at 47 per cent.

The ILO, as an international organizations with observer status, has, for many years, provided technical inputs to facilitate the G20’s ongoing work, particularly in the Employment Working Group (EWG).  Under the Argentine presidency, the ILO has had the opportunity to deepen and expand its collaboration across several work streams.  The ILO’s own Future of Work Centenary Initiative, including the ongoing work of its Global Commission, has enabled it to provide inputs for one of the presidency’s major themes.  In addition, the ILO has assisted the presidency in providing basic data on the situation in developing countries and has contributed to its goal of achieving policy coherence across several work streams.

The EWG has taken the future of work as its overarching theme. Priority areas are 1) promoting skills and lifelong learning for inclusive growth and decent work; 2) strengthening social protection for the future of work; and 3) promoting labour formalization and decent work.  Social dialogue, gender equality, and disability inclusion are cross-cutting themes.

10703373444_26a5fd1475_bArgentina has stressed the importance of working across ministries to accomplish G20 goals.  As one reflection of that commitment, Argentina is holding a joint meeting of Education and Employment Ministers in September 2018. The ILO, with the OECD, has submitted background papers for this meeting on skills and lifelong learning.

Similarly, in the climate sustainability track of the G20, the ILO has emphasized the importance of a just transition to a green economy for both enterprises and workers, in order to achieve inclusive growth and ensure that job losses in carbon intensive industries are offset by the creation of new jobs.

Argentina is now working with the G20 Sherpas to build the Leaders’ Communiqué. When they come together for the G20 Summit in November, it will be essential for Leaders to re-emphasize the importance of inclusive labour markets in reducing inequality and achieving fair and sustainable growth, as the world prepares for the future world of work.

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