International Labour Organization (ILO)
The global intergovernmental bodies in the world of work are the International Labour Conference (ILC) and ILO Governing Body (ILOGB).The ILC, also known as the international parliament of labour, is the annual assembly of ILO Member States, represented by governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations. It gathers every June in Geneva around 5000 delegates, including heads of State and Government, ministers and representatives of governments, employers and workers from 187 countries. International organizations and civil society attend as observers. The annual assembly is responsible for reviewing major themes related to the world of work, crafting and adopting international labour standards and supervising their application. It examines the reports which the governments are required to submit, detailing their compliance with obligations arising out of ratified Conventions, and their law and practice in respect of Conventions and Recommendations.

The ILO GB is the executive body of the International Labour Organization. It meets three times a year, in March, June and November. It develops ILO policies and reviews their implementation, decides the ILC agenda, adopts the draft ILO Programme and Budget and elects the Director-General. It is composed of 56 titular members (28 Governments, 14 Employers and 14 Workers) and 66 deputy members (28 Governments, 19 Employers and 19 Workers) elected every three years by the ILC.

The ILC and ILO GB review on regular basis various themes related to a number of targets associated with the ILO mandate. Decent Work is a core pillar of SDG 8 on “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all” and is mainstreamed across the entire agenda. A wide range of targets are directly or indirectly linked to the world of work (See Annex 1) and have been subject to periodic in-depth thematic reviews.

The reviews are carried out in an integrated and multidimensional way convening critical actors, experts and multiple stakeholders including representatives of governments, business and trade unions as well as international organizations, academia and civil society. The thematic reviews are based on the latest statistical information available compiled by the ILO and state of art global reports, and will include in-depth analysis of at least 30 SDGs indicators agreed by the United Nations Statistic Commission for submission to ECOSOC and the General Assembly.

The ILOGB has followed closely the negotiations and adoption of the 2030 Agenda and expressed willingness to actively engage in the UN follow-up and review process of the 2030 Agenda supporting the work of the HLPF. The unique tripartite composition of the ILC and ILOGB and its interstate and multi-stakeholder nature are core strengths in the monitoring and follow up framework.

1. Assessment of the situation regarding the principle of “ensuring that no one is left behind” at the global level:

Ensuring that sustainable development leaves no one behind calls for a comprehensive assessment across the multiple dimensions of poverty. A new report by the ILO, the ‘2016 World Employment and Social Outlook – Transforming Jobs to End Poverty’ examines the crucial importance of opportunities for decent work to the objective of leaving no one behind.

The report shows that earnings from work are the main route out of extreme and moderate income poverty and therefore to the achievement of SDG 1.1 on poverty eradication. In developing and emerging countries, 36 per cent of the working age population are living on less than $3.10 and 16.7 percent on less than $1.90.

However, more and better jobs, albeit critical, will not be enough to end poverty. Nearly half of all children under 15 and elderly over 65 in developing and emerging economies survive on less than $3.10 a day and more than one in five on less than $1.90 a day. Improved social protection is essential to support those unable to work and to support families where working women and men are not able to earn enough to escape poverty. Financing social protection requires, of course, the transfer of income, via the state, from the productive sectors of the economy to those unable to work. Therefore, a productive economy with a high level of employment participation is an essential foundation for an effective social protection system. SDG 1.3 calls for appropriate national social protection systems, including floors, and the achievement of substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable by 2030.

Goal 8 of the SDGs aims at ensuring that growth is sustained, sustainable and inclusive envisaging a central role for full and productive employment and decent work. Economic growth, even if fast-paced does not necessarily ensure that no one is left behind. An important part of making growth more inclusive is building mechanisms for the governance of the world of work that respect fundamental principles and rights at work.

The rights-based foundation of the 2030 Agenda is vital to ensure that those at risk of being left behind have a voice in how sustainable development policies and practices are shaped and that they can freely exercise their rights, (free from violation) to claim their fair share of the wealth they have helped to produce. The scale of the challenges facing the global community and the responsibilities of the ILO in contributing to the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda are addressed in the ILO Director-General’s report to the 2016 International Labour Conference, ‘The End to Poverty Initiative: The ILO and the 2030 Agenda” . The report will be discussed in the ILC plenary and the summary of the intergovernmental and tripartite deliberations will also serve as an input to the HLPF.

2. Priorities, gaps, risks and challenges

The main driver of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth is the transformation of low productivity and poorly rewarded work into higher productivity decent jobs. Against this backdrop, the slow pace with which decent work opportunities are currently created in most parts of the world represents a major gap, particularly in countries where rural poverty incidences are high and informal economies are large. The latest figures show that around 600 million jobs will need to be created until 2030 just to keep up with the growth of the labour force.

The creation of a macroeconomic environment conducive to job creation and to formalization (target 8.3) should be a matter of the utmost importance. The informal economy absorbs more than half of the global workforce and includes more than 90 per cent of small and medium sized enterprises. As a result, millions of workers and economic units around the world suffer from poor working conditions and a lack of rights at work. Low quality employment, inadequate social protection, poor governance and low productivity are some of the obstacles that workers and enterprises face when caught in the informality trap. The 2015 International Labour Conference undertook a major review of the informal economy and adopted a new international labour standard to facilitate transition from informality to the formal economy that could be used as a blueprint for the implementation of target 8.3.

Many countries have a high population growth rate and thus a large number of young job seekers. Youth are 2-3 times more likely to be unemployed. Youth un- and underemployment as well as the large numbers of young women and men working in the informal economy for very low earning are major social, economic and political concerns. The development and implementation of a global strategy on youth employment is a core priority (target 8.b). Particular attention should be given the reduction of young people not in employment, education and training (target 8.6) and investment is skills for decent jobs (target 4.4). A comprehensive review of the youth employment crisis was done in the 2012 International Labour Conference that adopted the ILO Call for Action on the Youth Employment Crisis which can serve as a tool for country action. The UN Decent Jobs for Youth Initiative endorsed by the CEB and launched at the ECOSOC is a major step towards enhancing collaborative approaches and partnerships to tackle to youth employment challenge.

Women continue to face major barriers to equality in the world of work. In many countries, employment participation and earnings are much lower for women than for men. Weak growth in both the quality and quantity of jobs also interferes with efforts to ensure labour market access for a wide range of vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities and migrant workers. It also narrows the fiscal base that is essential to sustainably finance social protection systems. The coverage of social protection systems is still limited to around 27 per cent of the global population. Extension of social protection floors in line with the ILO Recommendation 202 also adopted by the ILC in 2012 should also be considered as a top priority. By generating increased resources for investment, such growth creates the resources needed to finance development sustainably and realize the SDGs.

Eradication of child labour and forced labour should also be considered as a core priority (target 8.7), along with the protection of workers’ rights and the promotion of healthy and safe work environments (target 8.8.). The monitoring of the implementation of core labour standards in these areas by the ILO supervisory system, within the ILC, constitutes a major cornerstone of the follow and review mechanism of SDGs targets related to the world of work.

3. Lessons learned on ensuring that no one is left behind:

Recognizing the multi-dimensional nature of poverty and the importance of a thoroughly integrated approach to sustainable development, the ILO’s constituents well appreciate the importance of working with the whole of government as well as other partners, notably UN Country Teams. They expect the ILO to play a full role in providing an integrated UN support to countries.

Respect for fundamental principles and rights at work is an essential underpinning for an integrated approach to leaving no one behind. Groups at risk need to be able to assert these rights in order to combat discrimination in all its forms and to form associations of their own choosing to express their interests and engage in dialogue and negotiation on policies and programmes for inclusive and sustainable development.

Social dialogue between governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations is an extremely valuable mechanism to identify the barriers to sustainable development and the policies and programmes needed to overcome them. Social dialogue and partnership, therefore, should be promoted in workplaces, local communities as well as at regional and national levels.

Adequate labour market information is lacking in many countries, especially in least developed countries. For the SDGS’ indicator system to be successful in tracking progress and identifying challenges, urgent investments must be made in labour market information and analysis capacities.

4. Emerging issues

Continued slow growth in most regions of the world in 2016 means that the SDGs take off in a worrying global context. However, the 2030 Agenda, and Goal 8 in particular, provides a framework for rethinking global and national policies to break out of the slow growth trap and establish a trajectory for sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, in which full productive employment and decent work for all becomes a driver of transformation. An important part of such action is the reversal of the strong trends in many countries towards increased inequality and contraction of the labour/GDP share. This is damaging growth as well as provoking serious social stress.

If the promise of the 2030 Agenda is not realized by concerted national and international action, the social fabric of many countries is at risk of being severely damaged with worrying implications for multilateral cooperation, respect for civil and political rights, human rights and peace.

Despite a prolonged period of slow growth, the world of work is undergoing substantial changes. It will be vital to ensure that public policy is able to shape the processes of change to ensure that the goals of the 2030 Agenda are realized. The ILO has launched through its intergovernmental and tripartite processes a four year programme of consultation and analysis on the future of work which will, amongst other issues; help identify emerging issues for the realization of the principle of leaving no one behind.

5. Areas where political guidance by the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development is required:

The ILO Governing Body has discussed on several occasions the 2030 Agenda and expressed a strong interest in ensuring that the ILO and its intergovernmental bodies are able to play a full role in the UN follow-up and review in accordance with its mandate to pursue social justice and the long standing Agreement between the United Nations and the International Labour Organization. The International Labour Conference 2016, in which governments, employers and workers from all over the world will, amongst others, discuss how the ILO can play its role nationally, regionally and globally. The ILO Director-General could report to the HLPF on the results of these discussions. It would be most helpful if the General Assembly could establish a programme for its follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda so that the ILO can organize its follow-up and review so as to provide its support to the HLPF.

Given the scope and high ambitions of the 2030 Agenda, adequate follow-up and review processes are paramount to the Agenda’s success. Guidance on the ways in which the ILO and other UN entities can appropriately support the HLPF and member states would be timely. As can be seen in the Annex listing goals and targets most directly related to the ILO’s mandate, the ILO’s goal of decent work for all connects to all SDGs in some degree. In many, perhaps all, cases it will be important for UN agencies and others to form partnerships to deliver integrated support to member states. For its part the ILO is ready to help in the convening and organization of such partnerships and looks forward to any guidance the HLPF may wish to give in this regard.

6. Policy recommendations

With the current prospects for weak global growth, the acceleration of progress across the SDGs, particularly for those at risk of being left behind, requires a shift towards more inclusive growth patterns. This means that, in addition to generating decent work, economic growth has to be decoupled from environmental degradation. High, middle and lower income countries should consider implementing a package of policy measures drawing on the SDG framework.

Investing in new infrastructure for greener growth coupled with policies to increase employment and the spending power of lower and middle income groups are needed to rekindle growth and transform the dynamics of growth for sustainability and a just transition in support of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Low interest rates permit the financing of growth-enhancing sustainable infrastructure investments such as communications, low carbon emissions transport, renewable energy, fuel-efficient housing and public buildings, clean water and sanitation systems. In many cases, viable employment intensive options are available to maximize the job-creating impact of infrastructure investment.

Counteracting weak growth also requires action to reverse the structural increase in inequality in many countries towards the sustained and inclusive growth called for by the 2030 Agenda. With developments in the world of work a major cause of increased inequality, policies on decent jobs and social policies are of critical importance for those at risk of being left behind and the broader 2030 Agenda.

Achieving gender equality, in line with the 2030 Agenda, is an indispensable precondition for the realization of a sustainable development that leaves no one behind and ensures that the future of work is decent work. Similarly, action on youth employment as proposed in the UN Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth is a top priority in many countries.

As mentioned in the ILO Global Jobs Pact (target 8.b.), while countries face different constraints and opportunities, narrowing income inequalities and boosting household consumption can be realized by:

  • Improving job quality by fostering the transition of workers from the informal to the formal economy, and tackling labour market segmentation
  • Ensuring equality of opportunities to participate in quality education, training and lifelong learning
  • Promoting universal social protection and social protection floors
  • Improving employment outcomes for vulnerable groups in the labour market, with particular attention to youth unemployment, through active labour market policies
  • Taking decisive measures to increase women’s participation and ensure equal pay and working conditions for women and men
  • Reducing wage inequality, through for example minimum wages and strengthening collective bargaining
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