Informal ministerial meeting of the Ministers of Labour (EPSCO)

The impact of digital and climate transitions on the labour market

In a video statement to the EU labour ministers of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO), ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, addresses the “need to accelerate and to steer the transition to a greener, more sustainable, more digital economy”.

Statement | 15 February 2022

Representatives of employers’ and workers’ organizations,

It is a pleasure to speak to you today.

So, let me thank the French Presidency and particularly Minister of Labour, Élisabeth Borne for this opportunity.

You meet at a crucial moment. The world is looking for a path to recovery from COVID-19. At the same time we urgently need to accelerate and to steer the transition to a greener, more sustainable, more digital economy.

It is not a matter of one priority or the other. We have to pursue these objectives together. And we need to make sure that both aims support the principle of a just transition.

What do I mean by a ‘just transition’?

It means ensuring that changes take account of all elements of a truly sustainable future of work – human, economic, social, and environmental.

This means reversing the increase in poverty and inequality that we have seen during the pandemic.

And countering the threat of a “great divergence” between developed and developing countries.

It means creating new opportunities.

And leaving no one behind.

This sounds ambitious. And it is. But it is absolutely necessary. The challenges before us can neither be avoided nor postponed.

But rather than looking at COVID-19 recovery and greening of our economies separate or even competing priorities, we should see them as dynamics that can support each other, if they are shaped by the right policies.

Already, we have seen that the pandemic has accelerated some elements of transitions at work, notably digitalization.

ILO research has estimated that a green transition could generate one-hundred-million new jobs by 2030. Energy efficiency, renewable energy development and sustainable transport will all create employment.

What we need now is a comprehensive, strategic approach, so that the process also delivers the just transition that we need.

This approach will need to address labour standards, skills, training and education, social protection, social dialogue and the application of new technologies – including through digitalization.

Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch. The concept of a just transition is already enshrined in several important EU and ILO documents. These include the ILO’s Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies; the Social Pillar Action Plan; the Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation on a fair transition towards climate neutrality; and the ILO Global Call to Action for a human-centred recovery.

We are actively working to push these principles forward. Later this month the ILO will host a Global Forum for a Human-centred Recovery.

This Global Forum will bring together Heads of State and Government, multilateral organizations, and the social partners. Together, we will look at ways to strengthen the international community’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

In particular, we will discuss what needs to be done to promote decent jobs and inclusive economic growth, workers' protection, sustainable enterprises, and universal social protection.

All these elements are not only important for a human-centred COVID recovery. They are also essential for a just transition to a sustainable, carbon-neutral, global economy.

I hope some of you will be able to join us at the Global Forum. Meanwhile, I wish you success in your work in Bordeaux.

Thank you.