Labour governance

Arab conference opens with calls to reform labour markets for social justice and employment

The ILO and the Arab Labor Organization join governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations in calling for action to promote sustainable and inclusive labour markets and social justice in the Arab region.

Press release | Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt | 24 September 2013
SHARM AL-SHEIKH (ILO News) – Arab governments, worker representatives, employers’ organizations and international experts have called for action to tackle stagnancy in labour governance through policies that achieve social justice and sustainable jobs, especially amongst youth and women.

Participants at the conference Labour market governance in the context of changing Arab societies gathered in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt to discuss options to address inefficiencies in Arab labour markets and to uphold the principles of social protection during times of transition.

“Transition always comes with an economic price, but it also provides an opportunity to enact long-needed reforms, improve labour market dynamics and provide social protection that leads to more equitable societies,” said Frank Hagemann, ILO Deputy Regional Director for the Arab States. “We must work hand-in-hand to enact reforms that see jobs created and retained and to achieve a minimum level of social protection guarantees for everyone.”

The conference is a joint initiative by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Arab Labor Organization (ALO) to devise practical and concrete solutions to rising unemployment and deteriorating socioeconomic conditions that have come with the political transitions in the Middle East and North Africa.

“People have risen up as part of the Arab Spring calling for dignity and work. People have not risen up to enable one party or another or to spread the ideas of one group,” said Kamal Abu Aita, Egypt’s Minister of Manpower and Migration. “This is a lesson to learn; we must pay attention to the labour market in order to increase production, productivity, and investment, as well as contribute to social development and social justice.”

At the conference, Arab labour ministers and worker and employer representatives are meeting with international experts from around the world to exchange experiences and to share examples of best practices from both Arab and other countries that have experienced similar transitions to those occurring today.

“The importance of this meeting is highlighted by the challenges that face Arab society today,” said Youssef Qarouti, Director of the ILO-Cairo Office. “We need to ensure that key stakeholders and labour governance institutions respond to these changes, especially in view of high youth unemployment.”

Ahmad Luqman, Director-General of the Arab Labor Organization, identified five main issues that adversely affect Arab labour markets: Population growth rates rising faster than economic growth; a retrenchment of investment; the skewed structure of the Arab labour markets; youth unemployment; and deficiencies in statistical capacity and labour market analysis.

“There is a realization today amongst all those concerned with seeing the MENA labour markets create sustainable jobs that social protection must be achieved through polices crafted for the region and not imposed from abroad,” said Luqman. “We have to recognize that we have deep problems and we should develop a culture of dialogue to find solutions that absorb a large workforce and widen the scope of the labour market.”

Participants are expected to emerge with a set of recommendations at the conclusion of the three-day conference.

For more information please contact:
Sami Halabi, Communication Consultant
ILO Regional Office for Arab States
Phone: +961 1 752400