UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has issued a report to the current meeting of the UN Commission for Social Development which pretty much reads like a trade union manifesto. The ITUC leader Sharan Burrow welcomed his ”emphasis on employment to reduce poverty, as well as the recognition of the deep crisis of youth unemployment. Governments need to heed the UN’s call to deliver decent incomes and security, and the protection of international labour standards.” Ban Ki-Moon identifies weakened unions, austerity, inequality and informal employment as key causes of increasing poverty around the world:
“Growing inequality is attributed to several factors, including the reduced power of trade unions, the uneven distribution of the benefits of globalization, the growing disadvantage of marginalized groups such as young people, and inadequacies of institutional frameworks and policies such as redistributive policies” (para 9)
He urges Governments and international institutions to back the ILO Global Jobs Pact, extend social protection (eg disability benefits and pensions), offer youth jobs guarantees and take climate change mitigation action to reduce inequality and start reducing poverty again (global poverty was declining – albeit too slowly – before the financial crisis began, and has been thrown into reverse since).
There are any number of positive statements in the report, and it’s a pity the UK Government isn’t currently a member of the Commission. But do read the 18-page report – here are a few of the best quotes to get your appetite going:
“Progressive taxation, social transfers and increased access to social services, especially quality education, can counteract the trend towards growing inequality” (para 11)
“Labour market policies such as the provision of minimum wages and employment protection can be important tools for an equitable distribution of productive opportunities and inclusive growth. In countries that have managed to maintain relatively low unemployment since the crisis started, for instance, spending on labour market programmes at the start of the jobs crisis was higher than in those countries where the labour market has been hard-hit” (para 35)
“If economic growth is not associated with a move towards decent work, and away from the informal sector, growth will have an insignificant impact on poverty reduction. The ongoing cuts in social spending in a growing number of countries will only serve to increase vulnerability and working poverty” (para 36)
“macroeconomic and social policies that promote the creation of decent work and support stronger social protection are of critical importance. Investing in agriculture, rural development and climate change adaptation and mitigation measures are necessary to improve food security and reduce poverty. Crises also call for sustained and increased social spending. The trends towards austerity in response to the debt crisis, if not reversed, will worsen inequality and exclusion and ultimately dampen prospects for economic recovery” (para 72)