Employment Policy Research Symposium

The Future of Full Employment

The Symposium, to be held 12-13 December 2019, will focus on the fundamental question of full employment - its definition and relevance, its implications for inclusive and greener economic growth, the conditions leading to it and the role it plays in helping those who are at risk of being left behind.


This year’s ILO Employment Policy Research Symposium will tackle the fundamental question of full employment: its definition and relevance; the implications it has for economic and wage growth; the conditions leading to it; and the role it plays in helping lift those who are at risk to be left behind.

Full, productive and freely chosen employment has been a main concern of the ILO since the adoption of the Employment Policy Convention No. 122 in 1964. For most ILO member States, full employment has been a core element of social contracts and a yardstick to measure the success of economic policies. More recently, it has become a global goal under the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Renewed commitment to full employment and decent work for all is also critical in order to shape a fair, inclusive and secure future of work, as called for in the ILO Centenary Declaration adopted by the International Labour Conference in June 2019.

Several factors, however, have made the question of full employment less central in the academic debate, the political discourse, and the policy practice of several countries in the past two decades. Among those factors are: the difficulties in estimating full employment and assessing the quality of jobs, as employment assumes new forms and people move more frequently in and out of the labour force; a preference for fiscal austerity and narrow inflation targets in the conduct of macroeconomic policies; the challenges of managing the economy in a context of rampant globalization and fast technological change; and the trends towards polarized production structures that exacerbate divides and fractures in the labour market. Setting targets for full employment has also been traditionally difficult in emerging economies and developing countries, given the pervasiveness of underemployment, disguised unemployment and informal work. How to tackle those issues will be at the core of the discussion at the symposium.

The underlying conviction is that a renewed, clear and measurable commitment to full, productive and freely chosen employment is a prerequisite for the success of any set of policies aimed at promoting sustainable and decent work.

Objectives of the Symposium:

In addition to its main goal of collecting, consolidating and sharing knowledge and experience on employment policies that have an impact in the current context of sweeping changes in the world of work, the ILO Employment Policy Research Symposium has the following objectives:
  • Reinvigorate the full employment agenda in new economic and social circumstances;
  • Strengthen conceptual and analytical foundations of full employment;
  • Review recent developments in policy options and tools;
  • Share lessons from good practice;
  • Foster a global knowledge network amongst policy-makers, academia, international organizations, other UN agencies and development partners;
  • Identify key items for future policy research work.
The symposium will also provide the occasion for sharing and discussing first findings from the ILO’s forthcoming publication “Global Employment Policy Review”.


This symposium will bring together ILO staff, tripartite constituents, representatives from permanent missions based in Geneva, policy-makers and experts from international agencies, development partners, and prominent academic and research institutions.