G7 Labour and Employment Ministers Meeting 2023

Enhancing work engagement and promoting decent work

Speech by ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo at the G7 Labour and Employment Ministers' Meeting held in Kurashiki, Japan (Session 6).

Statement | Kurashiki, Japan | 23 April 2023
Chair, Honourable Ministers,

The ongoing impact of multiple crises is weighing heavily on labour markets.

And structural changes - such as climate change, population ageing, and technological progress - are increasingly having impacts as well.

As we discussed yesterday, women and young people fare significantly worse in labour markets.

This is indicative of many large inequalities in the world of work. In particular, the distribution of real incomes is becoming more unequal; and high inflation rates are deepening inequalities within countries.

This has brought to the fore the importance of enhancing work engagement through decent work.

To thrive, economies need workers who are well educated and qualified. And these women and men want dignity, good working conditions and a sense of belonging from the work they do.

Enhancing work engagement is no easy task.Firstly, this requires measures to prevent and reduce inequalities. Indeed, reducing inequalities is a prominent objective of many countries.

And last November, the ILO Governing Body adopted a comprehensive and integrated five-year strategy to reduce and prevent inequalities in the world of work.

Secondly, we need to ensure adequate wages and remuneration, particularly for the millions of low-paid workers. Statutory or negotiated minimum wages are key to ensuring adequate standards of living, and to limit wage inequality and increase the income share of the poorest.

Higher wages also lead to better productivity. The last years, however, have seen a decoupling of wages and productivity.

It is essential to invert this trend to achieve the fair sharing of productivity gains, which requires the promotion of collective bargaining at all appropriate levels.

Thirdly, we need to promote safe and healthy working environments, including with respect to mental health.

This entails supporting employers and workers to enhance dialogue and worker participation. It entails collaboration between the Ministries of labour, health and welfare, to ensure safe, healthy and accessible workplaces.

Fourthly, better work-life balance has significant positive effects on job satisfaction and the psychological and physical health of employees.

A good work–life balance is also beneficial for employers. It provides many positive effects, including increased retention of employees, improved recruitment, lower rates of absenteeism and higher productivity.

Fifthly, promoting diversity and inclusion also yields benefits for enterprises, societies and economies.

Successful diversity promotes the representation of different groups within an enterprise with equality of opportunity and treatment in access to employment, promotion and pay. Through inclusion, workers feel respected and are supported to perform well in their roles.

Finally, it is equally important to enable enhanced motivation in the form of career development and lifelong learning.

For individuals, skills development and lifelong learning provide the key to pursue their interests and aspirations, and to adapt to the changing world of work.

For enterprises, skills development provides a strategic competitive advantage for productivity and innovation.

For societies, they create opportunities for economic transformation, job creation, inclusiveness, active citizenship and sustainable growth.

So, workers need equitable opportunities and tools to progress in their careers, as well as transparent promotion opportunities.

The involvement of all stakeholders - including enterprises, trade unions, public employment services, and vocational training providers - is essential to ensure high quality career development services.

SMEs need particular support.


Investing in people’s capabilities is your Presidency’s priority, which the ILO strongly welcomes.

Therefore it is essential to increase labour force participation of women, youth, people with disabilities and older workers. It is essential also to facilitate workers’ transitions to new sectors or occupations.

The range of measures that I have described can contribute to reducing the global jobs gap, strengthening the quality of employment, and protecting real incomes.

Thank you.