Director-General of International Labour Organization (ILO), Guy Ryder's interview with Hürriyet Newspaper

“During my contacts in Ankara they (the confederations) didn’t bring up the issue of women’s employment and this is somewhat discouraging. Yet, Turkey needs to address this issue both as a social and economic problem,” says Guy Ryder, Director-General of International Labour Organization (ILO)

News | 18 September 2015

Ryder is the first top level ILO manager visiting Turkey after a time lapse of 22 years. Speaking to daily Hürriyet Ryder’s first observation was related to women’s employment in the country. After having meetings in Ankara with parties to working life, Ryder said, “ In these meetings they didn’t bring up the issue of women’s employment and this is somewhat discouraging. Yet, Turkey needs to address this issue both as a social and economic problem.” Ryder pointed out that income share of workers is steadily falling for the last 30-40 years and said it is necessary to review minimum wage policies. Ryder’s comments mainly focused on the following.

Syrians must be included

“We are working in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey to provide Syrian refugees access to labour markets. We took up this issue during our meetings in Ankara. First of all, Turkey’s hosting of so many refugees deserves high commend. Still, refugees need to be a part of labour force in some way. While providing these people the right to access to working life, conditions of labour market should also be considered. We have to reach some reasonable solutions to this issue; in this respect the decision rests with the Government while ILO plays an encouraging role. Since we have an urgent problem before us, this intervention should be as quick as possible.”

Unemployment is the greatest problem

“Unemployment is the greatest challenge in the world today, There are 200 million unemployed people. Each year 40 million new jobs have to be created to provide employment opportunities to young generations. What is worrying is this: Growth rates have fallen down following the 2008 global crisis. According to ILO estimates this crisis prevented the creation of some 60 million jobs. Regarding this issue, Turkey has its specific problems as well as others that it shares with the rest of the world. To combat unemployment, it is necessary to support models that boost economic growth, encourage investments, provide environments favourable for investors, and to offer opportunities of skill building and training to youth.”

Minimum wage is debated worldwide

“As pointed out by the IMF, deepening inequalities in the world pull down demand and this has its implications on growth. For the last 30-40 years national income share of working people is falling everywhere. While setting minimum wage, consideration must be given to both the basic needs of working people and demand in the market; but this must not stand as a barrier to growth and employment.” Reminding that for the first time Germany set a minimum hourly wage of 8.5 Euros, Ryder continued: “The United Kingdom introduced the concept of ‘living wage’ as different from minimum wage. Minimum wage is presently debated in countries including Spain, Greece, Portugal, the US, Cambodia and Indonesia. Here, there is need to take a look at relationship between minimum wage and collective bargaining. For instance, there is no minimum wage in Sweden. But the point is that there is a strong tradition of collective bargaining in Sweden and there are concerns that minimum wage may put a downward pressure on wages in general.”

There must be a culture of work safety

“It must be admitted that there is high rate of occupational accidents and diseases in Turkey. The mining accident in Soma attracted an attention both at an international and national level. Turkey has recently ratified some fundamental conventions on work safety and this is a remarkable development. What needs to be done at this point beyond legislative arrangements is to create a culture of prevention and ensure a transformation in mentality.”

Youth must respond to demand

“Youth is another important challenge in Turkey. Youth unemployment rate is three times higher than the overall unemployment rate. Here, it is necessary to ensure that youth have training and skills responsive to what labour markets need. Employers should have a larger part in training and the link between training and working life should be strengthened. In this context, TİSK’s ‘Global Apprenticeship Network’ (GAN) is a successful initiative.”

8 Eylül 2015, Hürriyet Newspaper