ILO meeting discusses pressing issues of regional labour markets

December 06, 2022 - 16:19
Government, employer and worker representatives from Asia and the Pacific and the Arab States gather in Singapore to shape priorities to drive employment growth in both regions.
The International Labour Organization’s 17th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting takes place in Singapore from December 6-9. Photo courtesy of ILO

Vũ Thu Hà

SINGAPORE – A regional meeting convened in Singapore on Tuesday, discussing pressing issues in the labour markets of Asia-Pacific and Arab states as the regions build back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Running from December 6-9, the International Labour Organization’s 17th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting is expected to help shape the direction of national labour and employment policies as well as the ILO‘s work in both regions going forward.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Singaporean President Halimah Yacob said: “The Regional Meeting provides us a platform to unite in dialogue to navigate the uncertainties that lie ahead of us. The pandemic and recent economic upheavals have given us another opportunity to rethink our growth model. The ILO plays a critical role in ensuring a fairer and more inclusive growth model where everyone has a stake.

ILO Director-General Houngbo highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with political, economic and climate crises had pushed social progress backwards.

“More than ever, workers are getting by on informal work, in jobs that provide little in the way of protection and security. We are now living under circumstances when labour standards, employment policies and social protection matter more than ever,” he said.

“We want everyone to be able to share equally in the benefits of future, human-centred growth,” he added.

Both the Asia-Pacific and Arab labour markets have recorded a partial rebound from the impact of COVID-19 yet with conditions expected to remain difficult into 2023, prospects for investment, growth and full labour market recovery remain elusive.

Director-General Houngbo highlighted that even without the considerable impact of the COVID pandemic, structural weaknesses within the Asia-Pacific and Arab labour markets hampered decent and equitable job growth.

Limited progress on gender equality, the lack of social protection coverage for large parts of the population, stagnant labour productivity, high youth unemployment rates and persistently high levels of informality were all identified as major issues facing both regions.

“These underlying weaknesses need to be tackled if we are to deliver social justice and decent work,” the ILO chief said.

“With effective pro-employment policies, more social protection, a respect for labour rights, constructive social dialogue and an enabling business environment, countries can equip themselves to benefit from the future of work,” he added.

The ILO Director-General also stressed the importance of well-functioning labour market institutions.

“We saw during the pandemic response how the countries that had stronger labour market institutions were able to counteract some of the crisis shocks more efficiently and effectively,” he said.

However, the Director-General recognised the challenges faced by ILO member countries to commit more resources during the current economic climate.

“It is not an easy task to scale up action toward the ILO’s decent work and social justice mandate. To advance through these turbulent times, we need to heighten our partnership with the multilateral system and work together through a Social Justice Coalition,” he added.

More than 500 delegates representing governments, workers’ and employers’ organisations from 33 of the region’s 48 member countries are taking part in the event, which is organised every four years by the ILO. VNS