Labour governance

Arab labour leaders pledge reform for social justice in a changing region

Pan-Arab conference concludes with recommendations on labour inspection and administration, social dialogue and social protection in efforts to shore up jobs

Press release | Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt | 26 September 2013
SHARM EL-SHEIKH (ILO News) – Arab labour leaders concluded a three-day conference in Egypt on Thursday (September 26) with a consensus to adopt inclusive pro-job development models that promote social dialogue, social protection and coherent labour governance.

A joint initiative by the International Labour Organization and the Arab Labor Organization, and in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Manpower and Migration, the conference Labour market governance in the context of changing Arab societies brought together 100 high-level government, workers and employer representatives and international experts.

Arab unemployment has been on the rise as economies stall across much of the region, particularly for young people. In 2012, unemployment in the Middle East topped 10 per cent while youth unemployment was above 26 per cent and rising.

“The Arab uprisings have surely affected labour markets and economic conditions,” said Frank Hagemann, ILO Deputy Regional Director for the Arab States “They also open the door to substantive reform of labour governance.”

Conference delegates issued recommendations relating to development strategies, skills, social protection, labour administration, social dialogue and labour inspection.

They called for:
  • the adoption of a new development paradigm that balances social and economic considerations such as equitable wealth distribution, employment generation, poverty alleviation and sustainable growth
  • a greater role for Ministries of Labour, and worker and employer representatives in drawing up development policies that are attuned to the needs of the labour market
  • the establishment of national social protection floors – which offer a basic set of social security guarantees to alleviate poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion – with the long-term aim of universal social security coverage. Guided by international standards, governments should also progressively ensure higher levels of protection focusing on pensions, unemployment and maternity benefits
  • in relation to labour administration, steps to enhance the funding and institutional capacities of labour ministries and their agencies
  • embedding social dialogue as a strategic method of choice to improve labour market governance, and creating the requisite institutions to support this process
  • investing in relevant skills, education and training for workers, adopting active labour market programmes and promoting apprenticeships
  • enhancing labour inspection to ensure compliance with international labour standards relating to working conditions
“The fact that so many labour leaders participated in this conference reflects the interest in a subject of such paramount importance,” said Ahmad Luqman, Director General of the Arab Labor Organization. “The recommendations issued should form the basis of the reform process across the Arab world in order to realize social justice, sustainable development and fulfill the aspirations of the Arab people, so the region may take its natural place in the global economy.”

Quotes from the Conference:

Egyptian Minister of Planning, Ashraf al-Arabi:

“In addition to official unemployment, we have disguised unemployment.”

“We should move towards social justice in its comprehensive sense, not just in terms of wages.”

“Decision-making is fragmented and cannot address deep need for reform of the labour market.”

“The next step is to see how policies can be integrated with national economic and social plans to achieve their objectives.”

Saudi Arabian Minister of Labour, Adel Faqih:

“We must enhance community participation through the use of modern communication technology and involving individuals as well as civil society organizations in improving and activating policies by expanding social dialogue.”

Yemeni Minister of Labour, Amat Razaq Humad.

“This conference has shed light on imperatives such as unemployment and the all-important issue of social justice.”

“Some Arab countries passed through structural adjustment reforms of the IMF and the World Bank, but there is a deficit between what we have achieved and what others have achieved.”

“We have heard about important experiences here and, in spite of our differences, when we find that we can benefit from technical cooperation, we should.”

Egyptian Minister of Social Solidarity, Ahmed al-Borai:

“In the coming years the issue of social justice will be at the crux of our discussions in the Arab world.”

“This region is able to unite to create better opportunities for life. This region, with its distribution of wealth and labour, needs a Marshall Plan just as Europe has after Word War II.”

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