Inclusive workforce

“Fair and effective labour migration frameworks will be essential to support a future of work”

Statement of Director, Dagmar Walter, at the 8th session of the South Asian Forum of Employers (SAFE)

Statement | New Delhi, India | 11 February 2019
  • Respected Mr. Majyd Aziz, President SAFE;
  • Mr Chaubey, President SCOPE;
  • Mr Peter Bongearts, Director, DECP;
  • Present and previous ILO GB members;
  • Respected member federations of the South Asian Forum of Employers;
  • Chairman SARTUC;
  • Employers and industry partners;
  • Trade Union partners;
  • Media;
Ladies and gentlemen:

A very warm welcome to all of you.

I am extremely pleased to be here with you today and I extend my warm greetings on behalf of the ILO Decent Work Team for South Asia and Country Office for India.

All of you present here, is a testimony of your strong commitment as Employers of South Asia –coming together to collaborate and discuss employment and employee relations for bolstering business development.

The South Asia region has shown resilience despite turbulent international markets and has continued to remain the fastest growing region in the world — with an expected average of over 7.1 % in 2019-20. However, what is worrisome, is that it also remains the least economically-integrated region due to what has been called a rather “nationalistic” approach. This was also debated at the World Economic Forum last year if you recall. This is one factor that overshadows the economic benefits that possibly could be achieved at the sub-regional level.

On January 22nd the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work released its report “Work for a brighter future’. The key findings and recommendations of the Commission’s report are timely for this meeting of SAFE.

Decent work is articulated as Goal 8 of the Global 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. To achieve Decent Work for All and to ensure a bright future, the ILO Global Commission report calls upon workers’ and employers’ organizations to strengthen their representative legitimacy through innovative organizing techniques. What then happens is that through a cohesive organization between workers and employers – those engaged in new business models through the use of technology too – form a part of our changing world of work narrative.

Employers’ and workers’ organizations must use their convening power to bring diverse interests to the table. Strong employers’ organizations prevent the determination of economic policy by a few dominant market actors. Their strength can also help us guard against corruption.

I am happy to note that the technical cooperation activities of ILO ACTEMP with EOs for the current biennium focuses on three important labour market issues in the region. These are labour law reforms, reaching out to the MSMEs, and skill development. These activities are also in sync with our country programme’s priorities.

Employers’ and workers’ organizations are critical in anticipating future skill requirements and ensuring lifelong learning and employability. Employers particularly have an active role to play in investing in skill development of its workforce and employability.

We all know that India has around 90 per cent micro, small and medium employers. And that they are the pulse of the economy. Yet these enterprises face many constraints and growth barriers. Employer’s organizations can play a critical role by facilitating the link between entrepreneurs and the government, bridge the information gap between the support institutions and MSMEs, build enterprise capacity on productivity improvement and reward and identify progressive and innovative firms. They can support MSMEs in smoother production processes by enabling access to finance, material, human resources or technology, markets or public or private support services.

South Asian EOs growing interest in reaching out to SMEs with new services is a step in the right direction. ILO ACTEMP will launch an Enterprise Competitiveness Assessment tool for MSMEs that will certify the enterprises as per key industry indicators including labour standards.

The ILO continues to champion for greater gender equality and a world of work free of discrimination. It calls upon governments, employers, workers’ organizations to work on enhancing women across the boards, portfolios, skills, and departments. We also believe technology is a means to achieve equality and equity in the world of work. Tap into that.

While the changing world of work can at first seem threatening — our Global Commission recommends a path of continued dialogue among social partners to achieve results that benefits everyone. Employers have been actively consulted in the future of work discussions, wherein we have analysed labour market dynamics in regions marked with high labour mobility.

So a mobile workforce too is the future. Which brings me to the issue of labour migration. Most in the floating workforce are in the search for not just jobs, but decent jobs. I will urge you to have a look at ILO's Global estimates on International Migrant Workers — just released in December 2018. As per our estimates there are 164 million migrant workers worldwide. The migration trends we see now will likely continue in the future. If we are to foster the benefits of these movements —our policy choices greatly matter.

ILO’s International Labour Conference held in June 2017 noted that as labour migration has become ever more temporary, many migrant workers are in precarious employment. Which means there are risks and costs, especially for low-skilled migrant workers. They risk trafficking in persons and debt bondage.

When policies are not grounded in international labour standards, migrant workers can suffer their fundamental principles and rights at work being flouted. They also are entrapped in high recruitment fees and related costs, wage penalties, poor working conditions, skills waste, and absence of social protection.

On the other hand, we can recognize that well-governed labour migration can bring many benefits to migrant workers and to countries of origin, transit and destination. It can balance labour supply and demand, help develop and transfer skills at all levels, and contribute to social protection systems, fostering innovation and enrich communities both culturally and socially.

There are several types of partnerships in this region to help govern labour migration. I will mention four of these:
  • Bilateral Labour Agreements and non-binding Memorandums of Understanding between countries of origin and destination;
  • Cooperation with regional integration communities such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC);
  • Regional dialogues such as the Colombo Process, among countries of origin, and the Abu Dhabi Dialogue among Asian countries of origin and GCC countries of destination; and
  • Cooperation among non-state actors such as trade unions, employers and non-governmental organisations.
Also in December 2018, the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) was adopted by 152 UN Member States including all governments in South Asia. This Global Compact has decent work at its heart. A significant proportion of the Global Compact focuses on labour migration, labour markets and labour rights. This shows the significance of work to migration flows particularly in the context of Asia.

The GCM will provide for a clear framework for us to implement the Compact in Asia in line with ILO approaches. The ILO in line with GCM will focus on lowering the costs of migration through better governance of migrant workers’ recruitment and their protection; skills development and recognition for migrant workers leaving or seeking to return; social protection and portability of social security entitlements; well-functioning labour markets and implications in situations of crisis; and bilateral and regional labour migration arrangements and cooperation.

The ILO’s rich repository of standards, tools and guidance can strengthen partnerships between the constituents and help them become intuitive and effective.

The International Labour Conference’s general discussion conclusions and the Global Compact for Migration highlight the critical role of both the private sector and trade unions in this process. Businesses serve as an engine for enterprise and job growth in countries of origin. Businesses help make migration a choice, not a necessity, and ensure that migrant workers in countries of destination have access to fair recruitment processes and decent work opportunities in countries of destination.

This year marks 100 years of the ILO. So it is a landmark moment for us to now reflect with our member States, workers, and employers on how we move ahead towards a truly prosperous and peaceful future.
Fair and effective labour migration frameworks will be essential to support a future of work that we all would wish to see.

I take the opportunity to thank each Employers Organisation for being a steady partner in promoting Decent Work in this region and standing by ILO in its long journey of 100 years. I wish you all very productive days ahead.

Thank you for your kind attention.