Statement by H.E. Mr. Joe Nakano
Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
On Policy Messages from the Regional Preparatory Meeting
for Asia and the Pacific – Kyoto, Japan, 7 December 2011
At the 2012 High-Level Segment
of the Economic and Social Council
2 July 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my great honour to address the Economic and Social Council and to present the key messages of the Asia and the Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Annual Ministerial Review of ECOSOC on the theme of “Promoting productive capacity, employment and decent work in Asia and the Pacific: a regional approach to sustained, inclusive and equitable growth and achieving the MDGs,” which was jointly organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) on 7 December 2011 in Kyoto, Japan.
I hope that the summary of the outcomes that arose from the preparatory meeting in December will prove to be an important contribution to the High-Level Segment today. Japan recognizes the importance of the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) as a key function of the Economic and Social Council, which was established at the 2006 World Summit to enable effective monitoring of the progress made towards achieving the Internationally Agreed Development Goals, in particular, the Millennium Development Goals by the target date of 2015. The preparatory meeting in December, therefore, was an important opportunity to provide regional inputs to this year’s AMR process through sharing national and regional experiences in our region and make policy recommendations to advance the agenda forward.
It was recognized at the Asia and the Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting that progress has been made in the Asia and Pacific region on employment and decent work related development goals, including the MDGs. Dynamic growth in Asia and the Pacific has lifted hundreds of millions of people from severe poverty. Also, much progress has been made in improving labour market governance and in making decent work a central objective in national development strategies. Progress has also been observed in a number of areas including increased investment in social protection systems; greater awareness of and action on the rights of migrant workers; and enhanced efforts to combat child labour and provide greater skills to young women and men. Furthermore, since August 2006, sixty-eight conventions have been ratified by Asia-Pacific states, though ratification and implementation of ILO core conventions remain lower than in other regions.
Nevertheless, Asia and the Pacific region still face certain challenges. Inequalities between countries and within countries have widened. Across the region, 37 per cent of workers still live on less than two US dollars a day. Coupled with social exclusion, this situation poses challenges to social and political stability. Strong economic growth has not created sufficient decent jobs to reduce the large numbers of workers in informal and vulnerable employment. Average real wage growth has been slow and has not kept pace with the overall increase in GDP and productivity. The region is expected to face a considerable jobs challenge in the next ten years to cope with a growing labour force and high unemployment levels. Slow employment growth particularly affects youths. The region also features persistent vulnerability and gender disparities. The female labour participation rate in the region was only 50 per cent, compared with 80 per cent for men.
Given the aforementioned situation, the Regional Preparatory Meeting for Asia and the Pacific had the following messages and recommendations:
First, the region hosts the largest population of any region in the world, and has a fast-growing labour force, which can be channeled into enormous productive capacity and could also be turned into an immense regional market if appropriate policies are taken. In this regard, in order to sustain strong growth, policy shifts may be necessary to reduce export dependency, increase domestic demand and place employment and decent works at the core of policy-making. Furthermore, the agenda of decent work and full employment should be at the center of policies for reducing poverty and inequalities and achieving sustained, inclusive and equitable growth and sustainable development.
Second, in order to continue making progress toward achievement of the MDGs, concrete measures should be taken, which include: establishing a more effective and job-rich growth model; building and strengthening social protection floors, in line with national circumstances; supporting small and medium enterprises – from where the majority of workers in the region derive their livelihoods; creating and promoting decent employment opportunities for youth; equipping the workforce, particularly young people, with the skills required by labour markets; working towards more inclusive and fairer labour markets which uphold international labour standards and rights at work; and finally promoting greener growth and green jobs, consistent with maintaining economic and social sustainability
In addition the aforementioned, several other actions were also recommended at the Regional Preparatory Meeting for Asia and the Pacific
For example, in order to develop both national, regional and international institutional capacity and develop job markets, the meeting recommended encouraging relevant global and regional institutions to support making decent work and full employment an important goal of internationally and regionally coordinated macroeconomic policies; exploring a more inclusive, job-rich growth model to create a virtuous cycle of growth and improvement in wages and living standards; strengthening labour institutions to ensure more inclusive and fairer labour markets which uphold international labour standards and rights at work; and strengthen regional cooperation, including through North-South, South-South, and Triangular cooperation and a regional knowledge network to best utilize the region’s rich experiences, good practices and lessons learned, and social capital.
Similarly the meeting recommended supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises – the vast majority of companies in the region – as drivers of job creation through an enabling environment that promotes an entrepreneurial culture, strengthens business development services and facilitates access to credit, and also strengthening employment-intensive investment, where necessary, for example through public employment guarantee schemes that are consistent with the creation of decent work. Also the value of promoting green growth and green jobs, as a means to achieve sustained, inclusive and equitable growth and sustainable development was recognized.
In order to strengthen job security and social-safety nets, and to promote equity and prevent labour abuse the meeting recommended designing policy packages, based on the ILO’s Global Jobs Pact, to promote an equitable jobs-rich strategy; promoting collective bargaining and the development of minimum wage systems based on ILO standards; building and strengthening comprehensive social protection systems, social protection floors, targeted in particular at the most vulnerable and poorest, based on national circumstances.
Special consideration was also given at the meeting to groups such as youth and women, which were both recognized as being particularly vulnerable to low employment and labor market instability. In this regard, the meeting recommended creating and promoting decent job opportunities for youth, in particular in dynamic sectors such as green jobs, E-commerce, and undeveloped agriculture sectors; working to reduce gender barriers and promote women’s participation in labour markets; devising innovative measures, such as mandatory vocational training as a condition for graduation, or youth targeting in order to make the “school-to-work” transition easier; equipping the workforce, particularly young people, with the particular skills required by the labour markets, including life skills; promoting productive capacity, which includes investing in people throughout their life-cycle, and developing comprehensive human resources development policies and strategies that effectively address existing mismatches between supply and demand, and identify future needs; and finally promoting social dialogue among national governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, youth and women’s organizations, and other civil society stakeholders to effectively tackle persistently high unemployment.
There is a need for more integrated and coherent policies and strategies for increasing productive capacities and for realizing full employment. It is important to invest in physical and social infrastructures, institutional capacities, as well as in human resources. Healthy, educated, skilled, productive and flexible workforces are the foundations for achieving sustained growth and socio-economic development as well as for enhancing human security.
These are the outcomes of the Asia and the Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Annual Ministerial Review of ECOSOC. I am confident that these tangible results will be a useful contribution Annual Ministerial Review and to the effort of ECOSOC to ‘promote productive capacity, employment and decent work to eradicate poverty in the context of inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth at all levels for achieving the MDGs.’