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Decent Work Agenda Gaining Ground in SEA & Pac.

For immediate release
07 October 2003

Decent Work Agenda Gaining Ground in
South-East Asia and the Pacific

NEW ZEALAND (ILO News) – Government, employer and worker representatives from 10 countries in South-East Asia and the Pacific this week reaffirmed their commitment to promoting decent work in their national agendas as part of an effort to reduce poverty and generate employment opportunities.

Decent work involves providing more stable incomes and productive employment, allowing people to meet their basic needs and those of their families.

“While work is the best route out of poverty, we cannot legislate employment in and poverty out,” said Yasuyuki Nodera, ILO’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. “Poverty elimination is impossible unless economies generate opportunities for investment, entrepreneurship, job creation and sustainable livelihoods. This is a long, complex process requiring all elements of society to work together. We must harness the unique combined strength of governments, employers and workers – the global community of work represented by the ILO’s constituents – to make a concerted drive against poverty,” he added.

The Decent Work agenda has been promoted globally by the Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Mr. Juan Somavia, and described as “work that will provide for the health and education of the family, which will ensure their basic security in old age and adversity, and which respects their human rights at work. Decent Work is not defined in terms of any fixed standard or monetary level. Decent Work varies from country to country. But everybody, everywhere, has a sense of what decent work means in terms of their own lives, and in relation to their own society.”

Decent Work therefore, can therefore be perceived as an aspiration of women and men in the world of work. It is not just about providing for jobs but providing people with the capacity to get themselves out of the entrapment of poverty.

Representatives of government, workers’ and employers’ organizations from Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, Kiribati, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu joined the first ever South-East Asia and the Pacific Tripartite Forum on Decent Work in Auckland, New Zealand on 6-8 October, 2003.

The meeting took place during a period of high unemployment and underemployment, both globally and in the subregion. In terms of poverty, the income gap between the wealthiest and poorest fifths of the world's population is growing. In 1960, it was 30 to 1. By 1999, it had widened to 74 to 1. Women and girls are more likely than men to become trapped in poverty, while two-thirds of the female workforce of the developing world are in the informal economy, mostly doing the lowest paid work.

A new ILO report presented at the forum underlined the magnitude of the employment challenge. ‘Decent Work in South-East Asia and the Pacific’ says, “changing industry structures and shifting patterns of employment also result from global competition. These pressures are being felt in terms of displaced workers, labour migration and increasing unemployment.”

The report goes on to say that policy prescriptions in the past did not view job creation or its enhancement as an explicit objective of economic and social policies, but rather a result of macroeconomic policies. In light of this, inequitable development has occurred, and this needs to be addressed.

The diverse nature of countries in South-East Asia and the Pacific means there is no single formula to curb unemployment and poverty, since priorities and responses may differ from country to country depending on levels of development, past policies and programmes, the availability of data, institutional structures and the political environment. The forum provided an opportunity for member States to share best practices and lessons learned, which would help in the development of National Plans of Action on decent work.

The Decent Work Forum came about as a result of a recommendation made at the Thirteenth ILO Asian Regional Meeting (ARM) in Bangkok in 2001, which urged member States in the region to define, through a tripartite process, National Plans of Action for Decent Work.

Media representatives are cordially invited to attend selected sessions. For further details, or to arrange interviews with delegates or ILO officials, please contact:


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