International labor standards must be preserved and promoted if the world is to recover from the economic and employment crisis, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder has warned.
In his first interview since taking the helm at the ILO, Ryder stressed the importance of employment rights. Speaking to ILO News, he acknowledged that the number one priority for the unemployed was to find work, but said that job quality is also a critical issue – not only for individuals but also for the global economy.
“Rights at work are essential to recovery. I think we should not be led into the belief that creating more jobs means jettisoning international labor standards.”
Ryder pointed to statistics showing that half of Europe’s poor households are dependent on one wage earner in the family. This, he said, underlined the importance of creating more quality jobs.
“Standards provide the rules of the game in the world economy and they are a very important part of getting out of this crisis.”
With 200 million people out of work around the world, national and international policies, he said, need to focus on job creation as their first priority in tackling the global economic crisis. But solutions to the crisis should be negotiated and agreed upon as part of a social dialogue, he added.
“The ILO can help very much in this regard. Where people come together and find solutions which may require some pain, some sacrifice on their behalf, they’re much more willing to do so if they’ve been a party to reaching an agreement than simply on the receiving end of somebody else’s decision.”
“This crisis needs to be treated on the scale that it exists, the global level. We have to construct global solutions. There will at the end be no sustainable national solutions to a world crisis,” he said.
Ryder said that young people must be specifically targeted if the global youth unemployment crisis is to be eased. Currently 75 million young people are out of work worldwide.
“All of the evidence shows that if a young person is out of work for a year or more at the beginning of their career that affects them throughout their working life. There’s no way back for most of them. So we have to act urgently, we have to act now and we have to target young people.”
Youth guarantee schemes offering work experience or further training should be explored as one possible way of addressing the issue, the ILO Director-General suggested.
“Sounds expensive? It’s affordable! It’s an investment, not a cost. And this is one of the priorities that the ILO is going to have to turn its attention to in the months ahead and quickly because it is an emergency,” he said.