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[Ministerial and Other  Meetings]

Kobe Jobs Conference

Chair's Conclusion

Kobe, Japan, 28th-29th November, 1997


ANNEX 1. Follow-up Activities ANNEX 2. Individual Action Plans


1. Following the consensus reached by the leaders at the Lyon Summit in 1996 and the Denver Summit in 1997, Ministers responsible for labour and industry from the G8 countries and the European Commission, or their designates, met in Kobe on 28th-29th November 1997 to address issues relating to employment. Japan chaired the conference.

2. Building on the results of the previous Jobs Conferences in Detroit and Lille, and benefiting from work undertaken in international organizations, we discussed policy directions and the challenges arising from such structural changes as global competition, accelerating technological innovation, and the rapidly ageing society. Discussion took place under the themes of "Promotion of Smooth Adjustment to Structural Changes" and "Realization of an Active Working Society" with the central themes throughout the discussion being two-fold: on the demand side, how can we encourage the creation of an environment favourable to new industries and generate more and better jobs, while from the supply side, how can we best ensure people's participation in a wider range of employment activities.

3. We recognized that solutions to our employment problem require overcoming diverse problems in each country, and expressed our resolve to continue to take strong actions against unemployment and to promote more widely shared prosperity. We confirmed that the discussion at the Conference will help us in planning and implementing policies to enhance employment. Following such fruitful discussion, we welcome individual country's initiatives, and follow-up activities that will be operated through voluntary efforts among interested countries. These results can help enable all individuals to put their abilities to full use and to lead a dignified and secure life.

4. We emphasise the importance of determined and consistent efforts to pursue macroeconomic policies oriented towards stability and non-inflationary growth. Such policies provide the basis for investment and sustained job creation. But macroeconomic policies must be supported by structural reforms as well as active labour market policies to translate growth into jobs. A smooth adjustment to structural changes, the promotion of new business, human resources development, and the realization of an active working society are important elements of this strategy.

5. Close cooperation among leading industrial countries helps to reap the greatest benefits possible from the globalization process which creates new opportunities for growth and employment throughout the world. We stressed our willingness to continue dialogue among the G8 countries and to improve communication with other countries, including other Asian countries.

6. Thanks to the dedicated work done at organizations such as the ILO and the OECD, the G8 countries now have a clearer understanding of the range of policy tools available to fight against unemployment and to enhance more widely shared prosperity. We recognized the importance of co-operating within these organizations. We confirmed the value of giving a common impetus to the work of these organizations concerning further analysis of employment-oriented policies. We reaffirmed our commitment to observe internationally-recognized core labour standards and looked forward to the outcome of work on this currently underway at the ILO. We also noted the significant contributions of the ICFTU and the IOE. We stressed the importance of further promoting a dialogue between government, labour and management, as indispensable partners for productive activities in a market economy, in order to meet the policy challenges in each country. Mindful of the principle of a free market economy that labour and management share the fruits of economic activities in which they play different roles, we stressed the importance of the collaboration of both parties, to promote economic growth accompanied by an increase of quality job opportunities.

I. Promotion of Smooth Adjustment to Structural Changes

7. In order to respond and adapt smoothly to structural changes and to improve the number and quality of employment opportunities, we discussed the importance of structural reform to achieve the following policy objectives:

a. promoting an environment favourable to innovation and the creation of new enterprises and industries;
b. facilitating both enterprises and workers to adapt to an increasingly competitive global economic environment through regulatory reforms that encourage both enterprises and individuals to take up diverse challenges;
c. the maintenance of the compatibility between an ageing society and economic vitality; and
d. reconciling economic efficiency and social cohesion, so that increased flexibility is consistent with employment security and job quality

Creation of New Enterprises and Industries

8. Newly-emerging industries are an important engine of job creation. We noted that many business opportunities have been created as a result of globalization, regulatory reform and technological innovation. Recognising the vital role of the private sector in this process, we agreed that an important task of the government is to develop an environment conducive to the creation of new industries and to the transition of industries from low-growth sectors to emerging sectors, in particular, through the removal of regulatory barriers to investment, innovation and new technologies.

9. We recognized the importance of providing an enabling environment for the creation of new industries. Emphasis was placed on the need to pursue the following policies which address managerial resources of enterprises such as capital, technology, and human resources:

a. the reform of a financial framework to ensure that markets can be counted on to provide an appropriate supply of venture capital;
b. ensuring an adequate amount of research-and-development by strengthening cooperation between academia and industry; and protection of intellectual property rights and improved marketability of patent rights;
c. encouraging workers to engage in newly-emerging businesses; and fostering of entrepreneurship through education and training; and,
d. removal of obstacles inhibiting people from moving to self-employment and establishing micro-enterprises, in particular, obstacles within existing social security regimes; and facilitation of labour mobility by improving portability of corporate pensions.

We noted that these policies should be complemented by efforts to encourage entrepreneurship in each of the G8 countries.

10. We noted the major role played by innovative small- and medium-sized enterprises in job creation. Their main characteristics, such as organizational flexibility, speed of decision-making, and capacity to work from a decentralized perspective are valuable advantages in coping with structural changes. We also consider that such dynamism represents an avenue to promote a new culture of entrepreneurship, and that coordinated and sustained efforts are useful.

Diverse Challenges by both Enterprises and Individuals

11. Labour market policies and programs, and corporate regulations should ensure that individuals more fully demonstrate their capabilities and enterprises achieve optimal resource allocation in order to improve competitiveness, adaptability and the capacity to tap the potential of new technologies. This challenge may face both enterprises and individuals as they both endeavor to adapt to changes they face due to globalization, technological innovation, and demographic shifts. The social partners play an important role in the modernization process as their involvement is crucial.

12. The need to adapt, policies, institutions, and regulations to the changing nature of work was underlined, as was the emergence of new forms of work arrangements, in order to treat fairly workers who are employed under such new conditions, and in order to improve labour mobility between traditional and newly-emerging sectors. The importance of enhancing smooth functioning of labour markets was confirmed. In this regard, we pointed out the need to enhance the role of the private sector such as private employment agencies, as well as the need for integration and improvement of the functions of the public employment services.

13. Opportunities offered to individuals should be combined with a recognition of their responsibilities to seize these opportunities. In this context, we emphasized the increasing importance of individual voluntary efforts. Individuals should be encouraged to take up new challenges and to voluntarily enhance and upgrade skills in order to create an adaptable workforce. We stressed the importance of improving employability through intensive training and educational programmes which allow workers to acquire the skills indispensable to perform in newly-emerging sectors.

14. Recognizing that wages, in many cases, are determined in the labour market through a bargaining process between labour and management, we noted that the structure of labour cost affects the level of employment.

Compatibility between an Ageing Society and Economic Vitality

15. We expressed our concern that an increasing public burden on individuals and enterprises due to an ageing society and the concurrent rise of social security payments may affect economic vitality. A well functioning social security system is a prerequisite for the readiness of workers to adapt themselves to structural changes and to prevent hardships for those socially excluded. To ensure the compatibility between an ageing society and the maintenance of economic vitality, we recognized the importance of adapting some social security systems in order to make them more employment friendly, and to moderate the public burden. It was considered necessary to review the relationship between the role of the private sector and that of the public sector, in order to utilize private sector vitality and to examine the best combination of private and public sector initiatives, in adapting our social security systems. This will set up a sustainable social security system and contribute to a strong economic base necessary for the maintenance and the creation of employment.

16. We acknowledged the importance of measures to facilitate the participation of older workers in employment, which may improve their overall welfare as well as enhance sustainability of social security system. At the same time, we also noted that, for those workers who are no longer able to work, it is important to ensure that they are covered by an adequate income support.

II. Realization of an Active Working Society

-Effective Employment Measures in Accordance with Life Cycles-

17. In order to more effectively target employment policies, we agreed on the need to focus on different aspects of employment problems and their solutions for workers at different life stages, namely: policies to tackle unemployment for young people, continued and effective human resource development for those who sustain economic activities of companies, and promotion of employment and training for older persons, and the maintenance of economic and social vitality.

(1)Promotion of Employment of Young People who Shoulder Responsibility for the Future

18. Today's youth will play an important role in upholding economic and social vitality in the future. As such, the promotion of youth employment through appropriate policies is crucial and needs to be addressed. In some societies, some young people need a better understanding of working life, the required knowledge and skills, and labour market information. Moreover, we confirmed the importance for industries, educational and training institutions, public employment services and other stakeholders to work together to put appropriate employment measures into practice for young workers as an "investment in the future" for the entire society, and develop a better link between educational outcomes and the skills requirements of the workplace. These efforts will help young people select jobs, which are in line with their vocational aptitude or ability, ensure that their skills meet the needs of employers, and give them a smooth start in their working life. In the context of this discussion, strong support was expressed for the initiative on youth employment proposed by the OECD Secretary General.

Assistance to Smooth the Transition from School to Work

19. Achieving a smooth transition from school to work is key to addressing youth employment problem. We noted that it is particularly important for stakeholders to promote a variety of measures at an early stage for young people. In this connection, it was confirmed that measures should be promoted including the provision of work experience both at school and off the school curriculum (internship), access to career information, counselling to build up clearer occupational consciousness, effective job placement and vocational training.

(2)Promotion of Human Resource Development to Empower Workers to Sustain Economic Activities

Human Resources Development to Upgrade Expertise and Professional Skills

20. Life-long education and training is now required to develop human resources with the expertise and professional skills needed to adapt to constantly changing demands of the labour market due to structural change and to sustain companies' productive activities. It is also important in supporting the growth and development of companies and industries, improving the employability of workers, and thus preserving social vitality. Human resource development is the responsibility of both companies and individuals supported, when appropriate, by governments.

Promotion of Human Resource Development by Fostering the Initiative of Workers and Companies

21. It was stressed that in this rapidly evolving world, workers need further training in order to acquire expertise and professional skills. To this end, human resource development, which builds on workers' own initiatives, will be of increasing importance. We felt that while companies may need to recruit qualified workers from the outside, it is also essential that they recognize the importance of providing their own employees with training, including in-house measures with regard to company-specific knowledge and skills. It could be suggested as an example of good practice adopted in a number of countries to arrange, inter alia, via collective agreements, educational leaves aimed at granting workers adequate time for life-long learning.

22. We discussed the need to promote access to information and guidance for both individuals and companies, and the need to upgrade vocational training to incorporate advances in technology.

Establishment of Vocational Ability Evaluation Systems

23. We referred to the usefulness of establishing vocational ability evaluation systems in order to increase recognition and appreciation of vocational skills. We also underlined the usefulness of more transparency in respect to recognized vocational qualifications.

(3)Realization of Active Ageing

Consensus Towards Active Ageing

24. As populations age, it will become increasingly important for older persons to participate in productive activities according to their desires and abilities, from a viewpoint of maintaining economic and social vitality, as discussed by Leaders at the Denver Summit under the idea of "Active ageing." To this end, the need was stressed to create an environment to address older persons' employment and/or participation in socially useful activities. A national consensus toward the positive employment and/or participation in socially useful activities of older persons will be an important key to realizing active ageing.

Continual Assistance to Human Resource Development

25. The need was acknowledged to have flexible responses to changing demography in the work place. In order for older workers to be able to continue to work according to their preference and ability, constant efforts will be required to ensure that their skills and knowledge match the needs of society and companies. For this purpose, it was acknowledged that while human resource development is an important element for older workers, it should also be a constant factor throughout all work-life stages.

Improvement of the Quality of Working Environment and Assistance to Social Participation

26. Taking into consideration the individual differences in physical health, financial conditions and job preferences, it is important to improve the quality of the working environment, including work place layout, flexible working hours and the redesign of occupational tasks. Accordingly, it was agreed that companies should be encouraged to improve their working environment. Furthermore, we highlighted the need to realize different types of employment according to the life situation and job preference of each older worker, e.g. part-time job. It was also considered important in some countries to encourage older workers to participate in local socially useful activities or to run a business using past work experience or vocational ability.

Positive Role of Public Employment Services

27. We reiterated our recognition that in order to promote older workers' employment, it is important to integrate important functions of public employment services of comprehensive and detailed job counselling and placement to both job seekers and job applicants according to their needs, the payment of unemployment benefits and active labour market policies. To this end, the effectiveness of Public Employment Services should be enhanced, in particular by exploiting new information and communication technologies, and by strengthening their services vis-à-vis employers in order to improve market penetration. Providing job seekers with labour market opportunities should be first priority.

Inputs to the UK Conference and the Birmingham Summit

28. The Kobe Jobs Conference was useful in continuing discussion of employment among the G8 countries from the perspectives of individual and corporate responses to changes in the workplace and in the global economy. It was reaffirmed that structural reform will be more successful if it is supported by sound macro-economic policies, and vice versa. Recognizing the need for continued efforts to promote economic growth and stability, and the creation of quality jobs, while promoting structural change, including regulatory reform, we greatly looked forward to the forthcoming UK Conference on Growth, Employability and Inclusion in London. It was agreed that the results of the Kobe Jobs Conference, along with the UK Conference, would make a valuable contribution to the next Leaders' Summit to be held in Birmingham.


Source: Japan. Ministry of International Trade and Industry.


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