Fighting unemployment and creating jobs – a universal goal for the G20 countries
The International Media Centre of the G20 Summit was the venue for the roundtable, "Fighting unemployment and creating jobs - a universal goal for the G20 countries."
Alexei Vovchenko, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation and Co-Chair of the G20 Task Force on Employment, said that Russia has proposed that G20 countries focus on three specific areas in the sphere of employment.
"First, we consider job creation to be a driver of economic growth, not just its product," he said. "It was proposed to focus on creating conditions conducive to job creation, which is important for all countries, regardless of their respective growth rates."
Second, labour market policies should be integrated with economic and financial policies, and should not be seen as something separate or secondary. This approach was the key takeaway of the first-ever Joint G20 Finance and Labour Ministers Meeting held in Moscow in July.
Third, the focus should stay on people and their rights in the course of labour market reforms. Developing and improving the social protection system is a prerequisite for economic growth and an inclusive labour market and society.
According to Alexei Vovchenko, all countries agreed with this approach. He said that the final declaration of the G20 Leaders will include a substantial section on labour and employment.
He also drew attention to a unique feature of Russia's G20 Presidency throughout this year - close cooperation with social partners (Business 20 and Labour 20) in discussions of labour and employment issues within the G20 Framework. "Almost all the key ideas contained in their recommendations were included in the final declaration of the Ministers of Labour and Finance Ministers," Mr. Vovchenko concluded.
David Yakobashvili, Chair of the Business 20 Target Group on Creating Jobs, Employment and Investment in Human Capital, pointed out that the private sector is the main source of new jobs. As such, conditions on labour markets should promote job creation in the private sector. "Cutting high indirect labour costs and programs that support a variety of employment contracts are the key components of a favorable business climate," he said.
The business community believes it's important to focus on education. "More than 775 million people across the world are illiterate, and they remain on the margins of the labour market. One in five young people never gets the minimum basic education. Over a quarter of the adult population has only a primary school education. Thus, Business 20 should first focus on creating high-quality education systems that will ensure the proper acquisition of key knowledge and skills sets," David Yakobashvili said.
In turn, the Secretary-General of the International Organization of Employers Brent Wilson said that the Australian Presidency of the G20 will continue to focus on issues of employment and job creation. In addition to creating a favorable business environment, he stressed the importance of reducing barriers to entrepreneurs and, in particular, encouraging the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises. "We still have to realize that small and medium-sized businesses are the main source of new jobs," he said.
Brent Wilson also discussed the need to promote social protection systems, saying that "social protection should support people's ability to work without creating dependency. We need to be confident that our social protection systems activate the labour market."
In addition, Mr. Wilson focused on the importance of legal reforms. "The world of labour is changing," he said. "It's imperative that we adapt our past achievements in the sphere of protecting the workers' rights to the new environment. It's important to maintain a balance between the workers' rights and responsibilities."
John Evans, General Secretary of the OECD Trade Union Advisory Committee, described what has been done by the trade union during Russia's Presidency. He emphasized that Labour 20's stance is based on the opinion of both the trade unions of the G20 member states and beyond.
"Job creation today will provide for economic growth tomorrow. Our goal is to maintain the Leaders' focus on these issues, since it takes political will to bring employment at the center of discussion," he said.
"With Australia's Presidency coming up, Labour 20 believes that the G20 members must transform their commitments into actions. We need to restore the trust of workers in political institutions," John Evans concluded.
In her address, Elena Zotova, Head of the Employment Division of the G20 Expert Council, highlighted the new issues proposed by Russia during its presidency. She pointed out that the employment issues have been on the G20 agenda for five years and over the past four years the issue has been considered in the context of labour supply. Specifically, the discussion focused on ways to support the unemployed and to make employment services more effective. This approach has brought significant results. However, there have been difficulties as well. For its part, Russia has added labour demand and job creation to the agenda.
During Russia's Presidency, the employment-related commitments of the member states have been monitored through self-evaluation by the countries for the sake of experience sharing.
"We can see many country-specific aspects in labour markets that must be taken into account. Building on the experience of different countries, we were not looking for a solution that fits everyone but proposed a range of measures that each country may choose from depending on its particular interests," Elena Zotova said.