G7 Labour and Employment Ministers Meeting

Developing an inclusive labour market: Focus on women and youth

Intervention by ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo at the G7 Labour and Employment Ministers' Meeting held in Kurashiki, Japan (Session 4).

Statement | Kurashiki, Japan | 22 April 2023
Thank you, Minister, for giving me an opportunity to speak on this very crucial issue.

The first slide demonstrates the value of inclusive labour markets.

First, there is a clear demand-side argument for making labour markets inclusive. Numerous estimations have quantified the impact of bringing under-represented groups into the labour market.

There has also been a focus in this G7 forum on growing labour shortages in many G7 countries. This is demonstrated on the right-hand side of the slide. It has created an increased need to maximize labour supply by focusing on inclusiveness of women and young people, as well as people with disabilities and older workers.

There is also a business case. Businesses that embrace diversity and inclusiveness outperform those that do not.

In addition, there is the clear social value of creating a world where all persons have an equal opportunity to thrive from their work. Unfortunately, we still live in a world where being a woman has a negative bearing on the ability to access decent work.

On my next slide, these two charts confirm this point. The first chart shows a measure of persons who would like to work but do not have a job, both for the G7 countries alone, and as a global average. This measure is persistently higher for women than men.

Both the rates and the gender gaps are lower for the G7 group compared to the global figure.

But the gender gap in the G7 is not getting better over time. There was even a slight increase in the gender gap during the COVID crisis. Mothers with young children, in particular, were more likely to leave the labour market.

Young people are another group that faces barriers to labour market integration. Youth unemployment rates are higher than those of adults. And we can also look at the youth who are not in employment, education or training, the NEET group.

The second chart here shows that the progress on decreasing youth NEET rates in G7 countries was reversed during the COVID crisis. It has not yet returned to the pre-crisis rate.

We also have evidence that it is young people with lower skills levels, from lower income classes and minority ethnic groups that struggle the most in the labour market.

This is a reminder that women and youth are not homogeneous groups. Targeted interventions are needed to improve labour market inclusion for the most vulnerable.

This leads us then to the “how to” of building inclusive labour markets for women and young people.

Most countries already engage in a multitude of targeted interventions. This is good, but there is also value in putting such measures together into a comprehensive strategy – one that seeks to balance actions that can influence both labour supply and demand.

Targeted investment in the green, digital, creative and care economies hold great potential to provide decent work for young people and for women. There are good practices now being promoted to orient fiscal space in ways that benefit women’s inclusion, including the growth of the care economy. It would be important to see further engagement on this topic.

Finally, improving the quality of work can increase labour force participation of women and youth. Provisions to close the gender pay gap are particularly important.

The promotion of gender equality in managerial and leadership positions is equally crucial. Quotas and voluntary targets have proven effective in breaking the glass ceiling for women.

And G7 governments must pursue their efforts to prevent and eliminate violence and harassment at work, in line with ILO Convention 190.

Thank you for your attention.