ILO Statement to the Third Committee of the 66th General Assembly

100th Session of the ILO Conference yields progress for women, youth and the poor

For the first time, international labour standards has been extended to workers in the informal economy, social protection has been reaffirmed as a right, and young people have been brought into the center of the development discussion.

Statement | New York | 04 October 2011
Mr. Chair,

Against the backdrop of a slowing world economy, the ILO at its historic 100th International Labour Conference in June this year took a number of concrete steps to address critical employment and social issues.

At the Conference, the ILO’s Member States with their worker and employer representatives, overwhelmingly adopted the Convention on Domestic Workers (Convention 189) and its accompanying Recommendation to improve the working conditions of an estimated 53 million domestic workers worldwide.

The Convention on Domestic Workers represents a true breakthrough: for the first time, international labour standards have been extended to workers in the informal economy providing them with the same basic rights at work as those available to other categories of workers. These rights include reasonable hours of work, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, as well as respect for fundamental principles and rights at work.

Our estimates show that nearly 83 per cent of domestic workers worldwide are women or girls, many of them migrant workers. The new standard makes clear that domestic workers are neither servants nor ‘members of the family’, but people that can no longer be considered second-class workers.

Mr. Chair,

Also adopted at the 100th Session of the ILO Conference was a Resolution on social protection which serves to reconfirm the role of social security as a human right and a social and economic necessity for countries at all levels of development.

The Resolution calls for a two-dimensional strategy that firstly seeks a rapid implementation of national Social Protection Floors, and then to provide progressively higher levels of protection.

The Social Protection Floor Initiative – co-led by the ILO and the World Health Organization (WHO) and involving a group of 17 collaborating UN agencies – promotes access to essential social security transfers and social services in the areas of health, water and sanitation, education, food, housing, and life and asset-savings information. It emphasizes the need to implement comprehensive, coherent and coordinated social protection and employment policies to guarantee services and social transfers across the life cycle, paying particular attention to vulnerable groups.

The Social Protection Floor Advisory Group, chaired by USG Bachelet, has been meeting over the past year to coordinate the preparation of a flagship Global Social Protection Floor Report. The Report will serve as an advocacy tool and provide general guidance on global and regional policies and strategies to support the implementation of the social protection floor in developing countries and address poverty issues in developed countries.

The final Report will be presented to the UN Secretary-General and, more broadly, to the UN later this month. The Social Protection Floor will be further addressed through a standard setting exercise at the ILO’s 101th International Labour Conference which will take place in June next year.

Mr. Chair,

Across the globe, the economic crisis has had a dramatic impact on young people seeking jobs. Some 81 million young workers are officially unemployed and many more are discouraged from seeking work. More than a quarter of all young workers – 152 million - earn less than the equivalent of US$1.25 per day, often in the informal economy.

At the 2011 Labour Conference, four high-level panels of young leaders were brought together to identify areas for collective action related to the world of work that could help change the future for young people.  These panels reviewed recent developments in the region through the perspective of young people who made these changes happen by tackling the challenges of exclusion, poverty and inequality. Young activists from Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen who were influential in profiling key issues, participating in protests and mobilizing peers into action on the streets of several cities of North Africa and the Middle East shed light on the socio-economic factors that drove them to become “agents of history”.

They also discussed how social mobilization, including through trade unions and by using new media and social networks, enabled them to make their voices heard, share information and mobilize for collective action on issues of social justice Building on this, youth employment will be the main agenda discussion item at the 2012 International Labour Conference.

Mr. Chair,

The ILO, through its International Programme on the Eradication of Child Labour (IPEC), has been at the forefront of worldwide efforts to combat child labour. This year the ILO has developed to new partnership with eight major companies in the chocolate and cocoa industry to combat child labour in cocoa growing communities in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

The ILO has paid particular attention to the elimination of the worst forms of child labour in the cocoa supply chain in West Africa. Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are the world’s largest cocoa producers, accounting for 60 per cent of global production. In both countries, unacceptable labour practices on cocoa farms mean large numbers of children are performing hazardous farming tasks or working at the expense of attending school.

This historic agreement builds on our clear understanding of the global challenge of child labour in agriculture, where 60 per cent of child labourers, or roughly 132 million children, continue to work.

The partnership focuses on three key areas over the next 4 years, including the strengthening of the capacity of governments, the ILO’s social partners and cocoa farmers to combat the worst forms of child labour in cocoa growing communities; supporting the development and extension of community-based child labour monitoring systems; and enhancing the coordination role of tripartite national child labour steering committees.

Finally, Mr. Chair, we are pleased to announce that the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) signed a wide-ranging Memorandum of Understanding with the ILO in Geneva in June.

This MOU highlights key areas of cooperation including promoting gender equality, eliminating sex discrimination, protecting domestic workers, promoting social protection floors and combating gender-based violence at work. Our agencies seek to enhance policy coherence in the area of decent work and gender empowerment and undertake joint advocacy and awareness raising initiatives, research, training, skills upgrading and capacity building for constituents.

In closing, Mr. Chair, let me assure you of the ILO’s full commitment and willingness to cooperate with this Committee in its efforts to contribute to social development.