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Labor Ministers Conference Labor Policies in a Rapidly Changing Global Economy February 24-26, 1999

Chair's Conclusions

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 institutional capacity

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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 this effort.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

    Follow-Up

  17. 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.

  18. We agree to continue our dialogue in a comprehensive way, particularly with Economic Ministries. We welcome Italy's and Canada's offers to host future meetings.


Source: The U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany

 


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