Labor Ministers Conference Labor Policies in a Rapidly Changing Global
Economy February 24-26, 1999
- Labor Ministers from the G8 countries met in Washington, D.C. on February
24-26, 1999 together with the European Commission and representatives from
the ILO, OECD, and IMF, and labor and business leaders, to discuss the
theme of "Labor Policies in a Rapidly Changing Global Economy."
Blueprint for sustaining globalization
- We agreed that it is very important to design a blueprint for sustaining
globalization and improving growth, equity and democracy as we enter the 21't
century. To maintain open and productive economies -- the driving force behind
increasing global integration -- and enhancing its social dimension we must
ensure 1hat the benefits of change are widely shared. We must ensure that more
and better jobs are created and that workers have equal access to them. This
calls for strategies that support employability, promote entrepreneurship,
enhance adaptability of workers and firms, and ensure equal opportunities for
men and women to participate in the world of work. These strategies require
the integration of employment policies and macroeconomic policies at the
national and international levels. They also require effective training and
education systems, effective labor market policies, and employment-oriented
social safety nets.
- We agreed that global economic growth must take place under conditions of
social justice in order to sustain globalization. This calls for the universal respect
of core labor standards, which we agree to pursue as a key objective.
- In a rapidly changing world we see closer international cooperation as an
integral part of our competitive economic strategy to sustain growth, create
jobs, ensure equity and provide security for our workers. Such a consistent and
coherent strategy is vital to enhance consumer, business and financial market
confidence in order to support stable economic growth. We support, working in
common with our Finance Ministries, greater cooperation among G8 countries'
employment and macroeconomic policies.
National policy challenges
- We are committed to continue learning from each others' experiences and
informing policy development as we put into practice principles adopted by G8
Leaders in Birmingham in May 1998 to generate new job opportunities and
tackle unemployment and exclusion.
- National labor market policies are driven mainly by national conditions,
although increased economic integration has made employment a common
concern and requires an increasingly coordinated approach in this field. The
G-8 countries are committed to make work pay, to take action to prevent
unemployment and the drift into long-term unemployment among certain groups
at risk, including low-skilled workers, and to address economically
disadvantaged regions or areas where industrial restructuring occurs. To benefit
fully from the increasingly dynamic economic reality, we must foster a culture of
lifelong learning. We agree that connecting people to the labor market by
providing employment services and labor market information, and training
opportunities and information on providers, enhances worker employability, and
that early identification and targeting employment programs to better meet the
particular needs of job seekers and local conditions enhances their
effectiveness. Promoting new forms of work organization is also important. All
of this requires strong partnerships, including social dialogue.
- Our discussion of our workforces in relation to demographics led us to
conclude that it is very important for governments, in cooperation with unions
and employers, to ensure equal access to the labor market for all.
We recognize the particular challenges faced by youth and older workers and,
in this regard, we welcome the U.S.-OECD youth conference "Preparing Youth
for the 21" Century: The Policy Lessons from the Past Two Decades" in
February 1999 and look forward to the symposium on "active aging" to be
hosted by Japan in September 1999.
- We also agree that it is important to make labor market institutions more
effective and to evaluate labor market programs to share "best practices." We
welcome the efforts made within the European Union to develop an integrated
and multi-annual Employment Strategy and look forward to sharing the
experience on progress in this field.
Closer cooperation among international organizations and building international
- Globalization provides great opportunities but also carries risks for workers
and challenges for policy makers. The recent experience of several countries
has shown the obstacles they face to deal with the social fall-out from financial
and economic crises. The principal obstacles have been. (1) the weakness of
labor institutions and labor law enforcement, particularly restraints on freedom
of association and the right to collective bargaining which increase the likelihood
that other core labor standards will not be respected; (2) inadequate social
safety nets, particularly lack of, or very weak, unemployment and social benefit
schemes; and (3) limited effectiveness of labor market policies, particularly
weak capacity to implement them. Success in removing these obstacles will
better ensure that the benefits of economic progress and change are widely
distributed, and contribute to openness in government and help promote
democratic societies. International organizations should provide enhanced
assistance to help promote these objectives.
- We agree that we need to make better use of inter-national organizations to
help establish the labor market institutions and strong social safety nets
necessary to enhance growth, employment and social cohesion. We should
strengthen their ability to help countries, especially developing countries, deal
with the labor market and social consequences of the financial and economic
crises, and to also assure more sustainable economic development.
- We believe that the ILO's new Declaration on Fundamental Principles and
Rights at Work and its Follow-Up Mechanism will be a key tool in the effort to
improve the lives of workers throughout the world. We will work with and in
the ILO to ensure that it has the ability and resources it needs to fully promote
this historic Declaration. We support the strengthening of the ILO's capacity to
assist countries to put in place and implement core labor standards and to
enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social safety nets through specific
action programs. We also continue to support the ILO's International Program
on the Elimination of Child Labor (lPEC), and urge IPEC to further report in
1999 on program outcomes, lessons learned and best practices in the effort to
stop abusive child labor. And we affirm our support for a new ILO convention
to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.
- We agree that the tripartite structure of the ILO should also be used to
strengthen the involvement of unions and employers in improving labor
standards. We also take note of the work being initiated by the ILO with
respect to codes of conduct on labor conditions and encourage the ILO to play
an active role in their development and promotion. There is a need for
international promotion of rules and codes of conduct to encourage socially
responsible business. The OECD can also make an important contribution to
- We urge the ILO to strengthen its analysis of the labor market
consequences of globalization and examine how integrated labor, economic and
financial strategies can help address the challenges associated with globalization.
Likewise, we urge the ILO to establish a rapid response capacity, enhanced
technical assistance, and a clearinghouse to provide feasible and timely policy
guidance to countries seeking to implement social safety net strategies to better
assure sustainable growth and to reduce the burden associated with economic
downturns on workers.
- We also urge the OECD to work in cooperation with the ILO in these
efforts, and encourage continued work by the OECD with non-OECD
members to address the employment and labor policy implications of structural
changes arising out of the increasing integration of world economies.
- We continue to recognize the important contribution made by international
trade in expanding earnings and employment opportunities for workers, in an
environment that fosters labor rights and education and training opportunities.
Our common goals of promoting respect for labor rights and continued trade
and investment liberalization are both important and mutually beneficial. In that
regard, we support continued collaboration between the ILO and the WTO
Secretariats on these issues. We agree to bring the conclusions of our
discussions to the attention of our Trade Ministers.
- We note and welcome the increasing cooperation between the ILO and the
international financial institutions (IFI) in promoting employment, social safety
nets, adequate, social protections, core labor standards and effective labor
market institutions. We welcome the high-level meeting in October 1998
between the ILO and the IFIs and urge that follow-up meetings be held to
support the better integration of labor concerns in IFI programs and in the
policy dialogue with members. We also suggest that the need to integrate the
work of the ILO and the IFIs be considered at the June 1999 ILO Conference
and at other appropriate meetings of these organizations. We welcome the
efforts of the World Bank to take better account of the needs of countries to
overcome crises and assist them in setting up effective social safety nets.
- We welcome the intention of the Heads of G8 Governments to discuss the
themes of economic and social policies and the importance of human capital in a
globalized world at the Cologne Summit on June 18-20, 1999.
- We agree to continue our dialogue in a comprehensive way, particularly
with Economic Ministries. We welcome Italy's and Canada's offers to host
Source: The U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany