Argentina takes the lead in partnering with multinational enterprises to create more and better jobs

Over the past decade, the government of Argentina has played a leading role in establishing an alliance between the state and the private sector to address youth unemployment and enterprise development. Multinational enterprises (MNEs) have been strategic partners in helping overcome these national challenges. The ILO has provided technical assistance to the government’s efforts to create more and better jobs within MNEs and their suppliers in the country.

CSR initiatives: the Ministry of Labour in the driving seat

Since 2005, the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security of Argentina has been guiding initiatives aimed at engaging multinational enterprises (MNEs) in promoting enterprise development and the creation of more and better jobs—especially for the high number of unemployed youth. Using the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (MNE Declaration) as a reference, the Ministry fostered partnerships among a wide range of stakeholders including businesses, chambers of commerce, workers’ and employers’ organizations, and representatives of civil society, universities, and other government agencies (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other Ministries) as well as the home country governments of the MNEs operating in Argentina through regional and international bodies (such as the European Union).

The Ministry placed labour issues at the heart of sustainable development efforts through various initiatives, including a national Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy and a strategic planning document (Plan Estratégico) for 2008 to 2011.

It also established in 2006 a “Corporate Social Responsibility and Decent Work Coordination Unit” in the Ministry to spearhead the promotion of socially responsible labour practices. The unit’s objectives included promoting “Decent Work and the ILO MNE Declaration” and strengthening the Ministry’s institutional capacity in the area of decent work and CSR through research, knowledge sharing and training programmes.

The Ministry convened and participated in many national and international meetings promoting the labour dimension of CSR. In 2010, it brought together the nine government agencies dealing with foreign direct investment and MNE operations to raise awareness of the principles of the MNE Declaration and to enhance policy coherence as part of its larger efforts to promote inter-ministerial coordination. The ILO participated as technical experts in these meetings, and jointly organised several high-level conferences including the Multi Forum Cono Sur (held in 2009) on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the ILO MNE Declaration. At this sub-regional Forum, more than 150 MNEs from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay discussed how MNEs could put in place and champion socially responsible labour practices, fair globalisation and social justice in times of crisis, and shared their experiences on the role of public policies in creating an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises.

Dialogue and joint action on CSR and Decent Work

The Ministry facilitated the development of public and private initiatives on CSR, and promoted linkages between the two. A ‘CSR and Decent Work Network', providing a multi-stakeholder platform for more than 100 leading enterprises and chambers of commerce, was established to stimulate dialogue and joint action. Companies were most often represented by top management, demonstrating their commitment to address national challenges collectively through shared social responsibility. In 2007, they signed a letter of “Commitment to CSR and Decent Work” in the presence of the President of Argentina, stating that their policies and operations would go beyond compliance with labour laws to further improve labour relations and promote more and better jobs offering equal opportunities.

The Ministry also organized a series of activities to help enterprises translate their commitment to the principles of the MNE Declaration into practice. Interactive programmes and workshops as well as high-level international and national dialogue forums were organized with the social partners and MNEs to jointly address the high levels of youth unemployment and the large number of workers in the informal economy.

Investing in youth

The “Youth with a Future Programme” (“Programa Jóvenes con Futuro”) was launched in 2006 to boost the employability of vulnerable youth and facilitate their integration into the formal labour market. The public and private sectors jointly financed initiatives providing young people with professional guidance and opportunities for vocational skills training in the participating MNEs. Upon completion of the programme, half of the participants (40 per cent of whom were women) were offered employment in the enterprises that had provided their training, while another 10 per cent were hired by another company in the same sector. The Ministry also encouraged young women and men to return to school and complete their secondary education, and provided support for their job search in coordination with the municipal employment offices and civil society organizations. More than 85 per cent of the 2,000 participants returned to school and 59 per cent have successfully found work.

Improved working conditions in the supply chain

A “Joint Training Programme towards a Shared Vision” (“Ciclo de Formación Conjunta para una Visión Compartida”) developed a culture of corporate social responsibility aimed at improving working conditions along the supply chains. This annual tripartite training programme aimed to build trust among key stakeholders and strengthened partnerships around common goals through dialogue. The programme also helped encourage participating companies to work with their suppliers and their trade unions, including joint participation in the training programme. Interactive expert sessions identified key challenges in supply chains and clarified the roles that enterprises could play in promoting decent work.

Of the 23 companies and 14 trade unions participating in the training programme between 2010 and 2015, 77 per cent of the business participants and 90 per cent of the worker representatives reported that their perception and understanding of each other had changed. Moreover, 96 per cent of the participants reported that the programme incentivised responsible business behaviour. Nevertheless, challenges remained in going beyond the first tier suppliers of companies to reach second and third tier suppliers, often in the informal sector where decent work deficits were more likely to be found. The programme encouraged suppliers to discuss and address issues such as corporate responsibility, compliance and competitiveness, and supported their formalization process and integration into the formal economy.

Building bridges between home and host countries of multinational enterprises

The Ministry’s CSR Network also set up channels/platforms for dialogues with the chambers of commerce of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States—countries that represented a large percentage of the foreign MNEs operating in Argentina. The Network emphasized the important roles of these “home” countries in promoting socially responsible labour practices among their enterprises as recommended in the MNE Declaration. Eight bilateral framework agreements for cooperation were signed between the Ministry and the chambers of commerce. These chambers actively contributed to the promotion of decent work practices in MNEs and their supply chains and collaborated with the Ministry in the annual “Joint Training Programme towards a Shared Vision” mentioned earlier.

In 2008, Dr Carlos A. Tomada, Minister of Labour, Employment, and Social Security, delivered a keynote address at the ILO-OECD High-Level CSR conference in Paris, highlighting the experiences of the Coordinating Unit in stimulating public-private partnership to promote CSR and decent work.

During the administration of Minister Tomada from 2003 to 2015, a total of 29 international seminars and round-table discussions were organized with the bilateral chambers. In 2011 a study “Multinacionales en la Argentina: estrategias de empleo, relaciones laborales y cadenas globales de valor” was conducted on the potential of the labour dimension of CSR in multinational enterprises and their supply chains to create more and better jobs in Argentina. The Government also actively engaged with other international organizations such as the European Union (EU) and the Organization of American States (OAS) on CSR and decent work and organized several joint events with the Red Argentina del Pacto Global (, coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

During the 18th ILO American Regional Meeting in 2014, Minister Tomada shared the experiences in Argentina with the governments, employers and workers of the American region at a special session on the promotion and application of the MNE Declaration in the Americas and called for more inter-regional and international sharing of experiences. Argentina’s experience in putting the MNE Declaration into action was also presented during the 2014 International Labour Conference side event on “Business and Decent Work,” by Dr. Noemí Rial, the Argentinian Labour Secretary.

Looking forward

Over the past decade, the ILO MNE Declaration has provided a roadmap for the Government to actively engage with business on decent work priorities by turning the recommendations in the Declaration into actionable objectives and results in Argentina. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Labour, government agencies, multinational and local and national enterprises, universities, civil society, and workers’ and employers’ organizations, have actively participated in public-private dialogues and pilot projects to improve decent work opportunities. Although MNEs represent only a small percentage of all enterprises in Argentina, the strong alignment of their policies with public development and decent work priorities has turned them into positive drivers and contributors of socio-economic development in the country.

Go to the MNE Declaration web site