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Day 9: 108th International Labour Conference

World leaders call for action on the future of work

High-level visits to the International Labour Conference (ILC) continued this week, with several heads of State and government addressing delegates on issues relating to the future of work. This year’s ILC marks the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

News | 19 June 2019
GENEVA (ILO News) – The King of Lesotho, the First Vice-President of Cuba, the President of Colombia, the Prime Minister of Portugal, the Vice-President of Costa Rica and the Prime Minister of Barbados addressed the Centenary International Labour Conference on Wednesday.

Some 25 heads of State and government have already addressed the Conference, which runs from 10 to 21 June. More are expected to speak on Thursday 20 June.

King Letsie III of Lesotho told delegates that, “we cannot talk about the future of work while we still leave the vulnerable members of the labour market behind.” He added, “We are also mindful of the new challenges that the labour market faces with the advent of rapid technological advancement and other dynamics such as robotics and automation.”

“We must redouble our efforts in skilling and reskilling our workforces. Experience has taught us that job creation happens when human ingenuity is paired with knowledge-based innovation. Employers and workers alike have to find each other in this era of rapid technological advancement.”

The First Vice-President of Cuba, Salvador Antonio Valdés Mesa, said: “It is imperative that all of us strengthen our commitment to the ILO and its mandate.”

“The ILO is turning 100 in a complex context. We observe with concern how ideas and practices which discard multilateralism as a way to solve global problems are spreading, and how they dangerously foster confrontation, aggressive rhetoric, impunity and impositions.”

The President of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez told delegates that the fourth industrial revolution posed great challenges for the future of work. “We firmly believe that the ILO must be the leader of this discussion regarding the challenges and benefits of this fourth industrial revolution.”

“Social justice starts with clarity and with ambition, and by being motivated to ensure that the labour market is a pillar of justice in a society,” he added.

The Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa, praised the report by the Global Commission on the Future of Work, and said the future “will depend on the will of man and the choices we make.”

“Technology should serve society, it should help people to work, but also to live better,” he added.

“The future of the world is not a race to the bottom, it should be the opposite…we have to take the best social models, we have to be more inclusive, we have to have more dignity for our work and our workers.”

The Vice-President of Costa Rica, Marvin Rodríguez Cordero, said: “To address the new paradigms of the future of work, we need to design and develop comprehensive policies centered on human beings and their dignity, and which respect fundamental labour rights and human rights in general.”

The Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, told delegates that “Government alone, capital alone, or labour alone cannot move forward to better the lives of our countries and the development opportunities of our nations.”

“The pace of change means that the only certain thing is the principles to which we hold dear. The principles that cause us to respect the dignity of work, the decency of work, the principle that burdens must be shared fairly and bounties must be shared fairly. Those are the only constants.”

The Conference is discussing the challenges presented by the profound transformations that are occuring in the world of work, and could adopt a landmark ILO Centenary Declaration, focused on a human-centred approach to the future of work. The more than 5,700 delegates – representing governments, workers and employers – are also discussing the possible adoption of a new Convention and Recommendation on preventing violence and harassment in the workplace.