G20 labour ministers speak, but are the global bean counters listening?
The G20 labour ministers, meeting in Washington earlier this week, have come up with a decent list of recommendations to get the world back to work, and strengthen our fragile economic recovery. Yet with treasuries and the IMF sharpening their budget cutting knives, will these recommendations just hang in the air like so much volcanic ash?
Many of the recommendations – pared down here for the busy blog reader – seem like no brainers for many of us:
- Growth in employment and incomes is critical in driving strong, sustainable and balanced growth.
- G20 countries have pursued a wide range of measures to create and preserve jobs. By ILO maths, this has saved 21 million jobs, but given that we’ve lost 34 million, such measures need to continue and expand.
- Better targeted efforts to generate employment for poor households and vulnerable groups are urgently needed for developing countries.
- Given the rise in vulnerable employment (“…half of the world’s three billion workers are employed in vulnerable forms of employment” according to the recommendations) better social protection systems are critical.
- Improve the quality of jobs through strengthening fundamental rights at work, to reverse the trend “in a number of countries” towards deteriorating or stagnant wages and working conditions and widening income disparities.
- Education, lifelong learning, job training and skills development strategies should be prioritised and linked to growth strategies.
This is all good stuff – but now what? Unlike other G20 commitments and processes, there is little clarity on the who, what and how. Leaders could pick up on them during the next G20 leaders meeting in Toronto at the end of June. But well before then, these recommendations really need to be the heart, lungs and soul of the G20’s “Framework for Strong, Sustainable, and Balanced Growth”, – a peer review process of national measures taken to drive growth and rebalance the global economy, overseen by the IMF.
Yes, the IMF. Worryingly, it’s now arguing for “significant fiscal consolidation” in 2011 – deficit cutting in ordinary speak. With recovery fragile, – and largely jobless – , and labour markets still propped up by government support, following this business-as-usual advice could result in millions more out of work, and in all likelihood tip the world into a second, deeper, recession. That’s why the global union evaluation of the G20 labour ministers’ meeting stresses the need for the International Labour Organisation – the global brains behind these G20 labour ministers’ recommendations – to be in charge of the employment and social protection parts of the G20 Framework.
Given the upcoming general election, our government reps in Washington couldn’t support something like this beyond a couple of weeks. Which political parties want to instead?