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Day 8: 108th International Labour Conference - Thematic Forum

Business for decent work forum

The role of the private sector in shaping the future world of work, and the best ways of encouraging the development of sustainable enterprises was spotlighted during a discussion at the International Labour Conference (ILC). The high level thematic forum was one of the events at the Centenary ILC, which marks the 100th anniversary of the ILO.

News | 18 June 2019
Photo album and video recording of the forum
GENEVA (ILO News) – Representatives of workers’ and employers’ organizations, as well as civil society, highlighted the crucial role the private sector has to play in shaping a human-centred future of work.

Speakers at the forum Business for decent work also examined the contribution of the private sector to full and productive employment and decent work, and looked at possible measures to encourage the development of sustainable enterprises.

The Forum was held at the annual International Labour Conference, which this year marks the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Addressing participants, Moussa Oumarou, ILO Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnerships, said, “The private sector contributes in a significant manner to the well-being of communities. Yet more can be done to shape business incentives in support of a human-centred growth model that places people and the work they do at the heart of business practices.”

Richard Samans, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum and a member of the Global Commission on the Future of Work, said, “If you would ask me what is the private sector contribution beyond being a primary source of employment, how to leverage that further, I would say… invest more in your people… pay a living wage… ensure non-discrimination and safety and health... and, maybe, the last thing is dialogue.”

Jacqueline Baroncini, of International Food, Farm and Hotel Workers Worldwide, agreed on the importance of dialogue, but pointed out that there are still countries where workers don’t have full access to freedom of association and collective bargaining rights. “We call on businesses to ensure that workers have access” to those rights, she said, adding, “We are making progress.”

Jacques van den Broek, Chief Executive Officer of Randstad said, “What we see is that the recipe for success is the public and private sector working together… There is policy to be made, and we would very much like to do that with the government. It’s about long-term planning.”

Gustavo de Hoyos Walther, President of the Mexican employers’ association COPARMEX, argued that it is not enough to focus on a human-centred agenda, but that “an agenda for the future also has to be centered on companies… we have to rethink what type of support is needed for companies to be in a position to generate jobs in the quantity and quality that the future will require.”

Laurent Freixe, Executive Vice-President of Nestle, said, “There is no doubt the private sector is the main provider of jobs… of formal jobs. A decent job is a basic condition to be a formal job. We should not forget that across the world… informality is unfortunately prevailing.”

Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Federation said that from the workers’ point of view, “we have to look at responsibilities. We understand that enterprises need to make a profit and need to have the opportunity to grow… But it’s critical that our institutions have the responsibility to regulate.”

Olajumoke Adekeye, the panel’s youth representative and Founder, the Young Business Agency, spoke of a ticking timebomb in sub-Saharan Africa, “where you have young people who are energetic, who are ambitious, who are hungry to make a living, to make sense out of their lives, to have access to the Internet, social media, and they can see how others in other parts of the world are living and are wondering why they won’t have equal access to these opportunities.”

The Conference, which runs from June 10-21, has a strong focus on the future of work. Numerous heads of state and government have addressed the ILC and expressed support for the ILO’s social justice mandate, and more are expected to speak later this week.