Briefing on Growth and Employment in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, New York, 13 December 2012
A briefing on growth and employment in the post-2015 development agenda was organized by the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN, ILO and UNDP, on 13 December 2012.
The consultation on growth and employment is part of a broader consultation process organized by the United Nations – eleven thematic and over sixty national consultations.
Japan puts high priority on the post-2015 development agenda and welcomes the UN initiative to organize wide-ranging consultations, said Katsuhiko Takahashi, Minister at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN, opening the Briefing. The Government of Japan also convenes a Contact Group for informal policy dialogue on the post-2015 development agenda. Magdy Martinez-Soliman of UNDP and Telma Viale of ILO, the two organizations leading the consultations on this theme, thanked Japan for leadership and support to the UN.
Magdy Martinez-Soliman, Deputy Director of the Bureau for Development Policy in UNDP, highlighted key messages emerged from the first consultation on growth and employment in the post-2015 agenda which took place in Tokyo in May 2012:
Growth and jobs must be brought to the centre of the new development agenda. The centrality of jobs is a major lesson from recent crises, echoed from the Arab Spring movements to Occupy Wall Street.
Regulations and training systems should help people who are left out of the labour markets, either because of limited skills or because of their gender, ethnicity or age.
Countries should have a space to develop their own policies, while the global agenda should provide a common space to collaborate on issues such as climate change.
He said that the humanity faces a fundamental challenge – how to generate growth and jobs while protecting our planet. We should build a development model where sustainability, economic dynamism and employment generation go hand-in-hand.
Telma Viale, Special Representative of ILO to the UN, underscored that job creation is one of the most pressing challenges in the next decade, with 40 million young people entering the labour force every year. Employment must be actively pursued as a goal of macroeconomic and other policies.
Economic growth must be commensurate with increase in decent jobs, accompanied by social protection, active labour market policies and skills development.
Social protection has a transformative nature and reduces inequalities. For example, Brazil’s social protection schemes reduced poverty by 36 percent within six years. Chile, India, Turkey and South Africa have implemented social protection schemes, incorporating a gender perspective. But today, 80 percent of the world population lives without any basic social protection.
Since the global meeting in Tokyo, issues of full and productive employment and social protection emerged in other key fora, including the Rio+20 Conference, the ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review and the ILO Governing Body meeting.
Degol Hailu, Senior Adviser at UNDP, summarized ten policy recommendations from the global consultation in Tokyo:
- Increasing agricultural productivity by investing in rural infrastructure, technology, extension services and access to credit, especially women
- Providing incentives to increase productive capacities for structural transformation. This can be done by investing in infrastructure, new technologies and improving the business environment.
- Linking natural resource extraction to employment generation. In Sub-saharan Africa, 25 percent of GDP is produced by extraction of oil, gas and minerals, but this sector generates only about 3 percent of jobs.
- Improving productivity and working conditions in the services sector.
- Implementing social protection schemes. Social protection not only reduces poverty but also acts as a macroeconomic stabilizer during recessions.
- Creating an enabling macroeconomic environment. Monetary policy could aim to enhance access to credit through policy interest rate, fiscal policy should aim to mobilize resources domestically and increasing public investments in infrastructure and human capital. Exchange rate policy should seek to support trade.
- Labour market institutions and regulations such as minimum wages to protect those who have jobs, but earn too little to exit poverty – the working poor.
- Lessening the impact of impending transition to low-carbon growth. Old industries will likely be replaced by new and some jobs will be replaced by others. This transition can be smoothed through social safety nets and selective subsidies to employment-intensive sectors.
- Fostering policy coherence among countries on issues such as trade, financial flows, migration and climate change. ILO’s Global Jobs Pact is one such mechanism.
- Developing statistical capacity since “you cannot influence what you cannot measure”.
Aurelio Parisotto, Senior Economist of ILO, said that the global economic downturn has long-lasting implications on growth, employment and poverty reduction prospects. Future transitions such as changing demography, investments in labour-saving technologies, changing geography of production, urbanization and climate change will likely make job shortages even more acute.
Despite the gloomy outlook, there is a sense of optimism among experts that many policy solutions to generate jobs are largely known, although not necessarily easy. Such solutions often require implementing a ‘package’ of social and economic policies. In addition, they require solving institutional dilemmas and bottlenecks.
The process of transition toward inclusive and sustainable growth must be anchored in stronger policy for jobs, employment and social protection. The recent World Bank report on jobs underscores that the job agenda is transformational.
Ultimately, decisions will need to be taken on what are the key policy priorities. Parisotto summarized these priorities as follows:
The number of working poor should be reduced through policies to help enterprise upgrading, and regulatory measures such as the minimum wage.
Addressing the large and growing number of unemployed youth requires policies such as skill-building, training systems, hiring subsidies and public employment programmes.
Women’s participation in labour markets is improving but still deficient in many regions, calling for facilitating equitable participation in labour markets.
One of the most important policy lessons is introducing basic social protection measures (social protection floor) to reduce vulnerability of jobs and livelihoods.
Following the panel speakers, the discussion touched upon several issues:
- Economic growth should not be a target in the new agenda, because this will send a wrong signal. Instead, full employment should be a policy target – as it is, for example, in South Korea, China, Viet Nam and almost all developed countries.
- One solution to address unemployment problems can be job-sharing - the move to a 4-day work scheme, whereby more people will have jobs but will work less. Such measures were implemented in Germany, which helped it avoid large-scale layoffs. However, such policies can be effective only when there are long-term relationships and trust between employers and employees. A major and more important issue is improving working conditions of workers, especially of the working poor and people working in the informal sector.
- Most migrants migrate for work. Should not the global agenda address the issue of coordinating migration among countries? The movement of people is by nature a politically difficult process and ultimately, would depend on political agreements. How will the issue of ageing and old-age poverty be addressed in the new agenda? Demographic transitions, such as ageing, youth bulge, migration and urbanization should be considered in the new agenda.
- How will measures such as addressing discriminatory land and inheritance laws, as well as other measures on gender equality be addressed in the new agenda? The legal empowerment of women, through giving rights to own land, is shown to increase household incomes by 20 percent. Another study shows that providing childcare, water and electricity frees up women’s time, increasing their opportunities to join the labour market. Addressing gender equality is a key issue where you can “kill two birds with the same stone”, and should be at the centre of development. For example, closing the gap in women’s earnings helps improve livelihoods not only of women, but also of those who depend on them, in many cases children, elderly and people with disabilities. In addition to consultations on growth and employment, there are vibrant discussions on addressing inequalities where gender inequality issues are being discussed.
- Governance of global and local commons such as land rights and water governance is fundamental for sustainable livelihoods and improving the quality of life. It is also one of the most effective ways to fight poverty.
- How will the new generation of goals draw on tools such as businesses and human rights? Businesses are actively engaged in the dialogue, not least because of the importance of the MDGs for their business. We welcome the engagement of business in the new agenda.
- Social protection floor, as designed by ILO and other agencies, can address many vulnerabilities. They can also be financially sustainable, estimates suggest that they cost about 1-3 percent of GDP of a country. Although they will be especially difficult to implement in the poorest countries, international development cooperation can support them to start such programmes.
- How to transition from MDGs to the post-2015 development agenda? Countries and partners should remain committed to supporting developing countries achieving the MDGs through the final stretch till 2015 by accelerating progress to MDGs. A final MDG report will be produced, which will have valuable lessons for the new agenda as well.
In conclusion, Paul Ladd, Senior Adviser of UNDP, underscored the commitment of the UN to work with civil society and other partners in designing the new agenda, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because no one knows all the answers. Unlike the formulation of the Millennium Development Goals, the new development agenda will be developed on the basis of unprecedented open process, process of structured outreach, starting this year.
Ultimately, the new development agenda will be decided upon and implemented by governments of member states. The results of broad consultations organized by UN and partner governments will be channeled into the outcomes of the High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Open Working Group established to work on sustainable development goals, and ultimately feed into the full intergovernmental process of UN member states.