Opening speech by ILO Viet Nam Director at 7th ASEAN Labour Inspection Conference

ILO Viet Nam Director, Chang-Hee Lee, delivers the opening remarks at the 7th ASEAN Labour Inspection Conference - Strategic Labour Inspection for Decent Work Including in Global Supply Chains on 27-28 September 2018 in HCM City.

Statement | 27 September 2018
Vice Minister Doan Mau Diep, Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs of Viet Nam

Mr Nguyen Tien Tung, Chief Inspector

Mr Bernhard Raebel, Vice President of the International Association of Labour Inspectors (IALI)

Distinguished participants from ASEAN countries

Representatives of the ASEAN Secretariat

Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning!

I am glad to be here today, on behalf of the ILO, to welcome all of you to the 7th ASEAN Labour Inspection Conference to discuss the role of strategic labour inspection planning towards achieving decent work, including in global supply chains. It is the ILO’s great honour to continue this good collaboration with ASEAN Member States at these labour inspection conferences, which began 8 years ago in Viet Nam.

On this occasion, I would like to applaud MOLISA and the ASEAN Secretariat for making the Conference possible despite the short timeframe and I congratulate all who have been involved in the preparations for this important event. In fact, this is the third time the Government of Viet Nam has hosted this Conference and I want to give special recognition to MOLISA's leadership on labour inspection within the ASEAN community.

I would also like to thank my ILO colleagues from Geneva, Bangkok and Hanoi who actively contributed to this event and for the funding that was in part provided by the ILO's Zero Vision Fund.

On a sad note, however, I would like to take this moment to offer the ILO's sincere condolences to the People of Viet Nam on the passing of President Tran Dai Quang last week.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Around the world, including here in the ASEAN community, labour inspection is widely recognised as a key public institution for achieving Decent Work. However, in many ASEAN member countries, labour inspection still faces difficulties in enforcing the law, particularly given the imbalance between limited resources and the large numbers of workers and workplaces. Yet we know that in this dynamic economic zone, labour law compliance is important not only for securing workers' rights and ensuring harmonious and productive workplaces, but as a contribution to ASEAN's social and economic progress and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

The question is, how can we work together to strengthen the role of labour inspectorates in collaboration with the social partners to improve workplace compliance in your national economies, as well as in global supply chains? One important way is by strengthening strategic compliance planning, which is the focus of this year's ALIC, and an emphasis of recent ILO technical assistance to labour inspectorates.

The ILO recognizes and appreciates the efforts ASEAN Member States have made in recent years to improve their legal and policy frameworks, add resources and develop new interventions, in an effort to strengthen workplace compliance. This Conference is an opportunity to share some of these successes as well as to promote policy coherence on enforcement between Member States. Yet Governments, and labour inspectorates in particular, continue to face difficulties in enforcing labour laws and protecting workers. These challenges are considerable when we think about the future of work, the transformation of local economies through technology, the diverse and emerging forms of work, along with the effects of globalization. Together, these factors continue to transform labour markets and workplaces, and pose a challenge to labour inspectorates in carrying out their mandate, especially with traditional enforcement approaches.

Limited resources and a lack of political support are often blamed for labour inspectorate weakness. But the ILO would like to challenge this reflexive way of thinking. All inspectorates around the globe, whether in developed or developing nations, face resource limitations. What truly characterizes an effective inspection system is one that maximizes the impact of the resources it has – especially often through rigorous strategic planning. If an inspectorate focuses only on its resource gaps, it may miss opportunities to achieve more with less. Resources are important, and the ILO calls on Governments to sufficiently staff and finance national inspectorates. That said, more resources do not necessarily translate into better compliance if there is no strategic framework.

Consequently, the ILO is working with many countries, including several here in ASEAN, to improve their methods of strategic planning. The ILO's strategic compliance model is not a new idea as such. To varying degrees, all inspectorates engage in planning. What the model provides, however, is a step-by-step methodology to guide strategic planning in the context of limited resources. It is a method that is relevant to all parts of the labour market, whether SMEs or large scale enterprises, and to any sector, whether or not linked to a global supply chain. That is why the topic for this ALIC is focused not only on strategic compliance in global supply chains but in all enterprises and for all workers. Better strategic planning by inspectorates will benefit all of these workplaces, which are intricately linked in a national and global economy.

This much was recognized by delegates to the International Labour Conference in 2016 who, in their resolution on decent work in global supply chains noted that improving working conditions for all workers in a country will necessarily have a positive impact on working conditions in global supply chains. In this respect, Governments, and inspectorates in particular, must set out the expectation that all enterprises in their jurisdiction are required to respect the labour laws and are subject to the labour inspectorate's mandate – and in so doing, avoid pockets of unequal regulation and protection whether for migrant workers, homeworkers, workers in non-standard forms of employment or workers in export processing zones.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As deeper regional and global integration continue to be a priority for export-oriented economies in the region, ASEAN countries should increasingly focus their attention on better inspection strategies for improving working conditions in their national economies, including workplaces that are part of global supply chains. Decent Work is, in many cases, a key condition for accessing global markets or for receiving preferential trade benefits. We see this dynamic at play today whether it's in seafood, textiles and clothing, electronics, automotive, food and agriculture or other global industries. Ensuring fundamental rights at work and decent working conditions isn't just good for workers, it's good for business and the overall economy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year's ASEAN Labour Inspection Conference is also evidence that labour inspectorates are not and should not work alone. While the responsibility for law enforcement lies with governments, there is no doubt that employers, workers and their organizations have an important role to play in promoting and ensuring compliance. For this very reason, the ILO is pleased to see the social partners present at this meeting and engaged on this topic with inspectorates. The ILO applauds this good practice and urges ASEAN Member States to continue such arrangements for future Labour Inspection Conferences and to promote social dialogue not only in these regional meetings but also in the workplace.

It is our hope that, together, strategic compliance planning will be strengthened in inspectorates across the region towards the goal of sustained compliance. The ILO believes that a commitment to improving working conditions will help boost living standards and competitivity in the ASEAN Community. It will also help improve labour standards in global supply chains that are crucial to the development of your people and economies. The ILO fully commits to supporting ASEAN countries in this continued path to a prosperous future grounded in international labour standards.

As the ILO approaches its 100th anniversary next year, we look to the future of continued engagement with ASEAN on improving national labour inspection systems in the pursuit of social justice and decent work. In this respect, we welcome the outcome of this Conference and the messages that will be brought to the SLOM and other higher level ASEAN forums as part of your Community's efforts to improve labour law regulation and Decent Work for All.

I look forward to a fruitful meeting over the next two days and urge all of you to actively participate in the discussion because this is an area of work that benefits from multi-party efforts, views and collaboration.

I wish you all great success and thank you for your attention!