Magazine article UN Chronicle

Targeting Employment

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Targeting Employment

Article excerpt

"Over 120 million people worldwide are officially unemployed and many more are underemployed, causing massive personal suffering, widespread social disintegration and huge economic waste. " So begin the Agreed Conclusions of the thirty-95th session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development, which met in New York recently. The main subject for discussion was productive employment and sustainable livelihoods. This was the first conference on the subject at the United Nations in New York--as distinct from the International Labour Organization--that anyone could remember.

Many of the conclusions re-emphasize positions of earlier conferences, particularly the Social Summit. There is some value even in that because it reminds countries of commitments which they have already made. Of greater interest though are new or strengthened commitments. Ten stand out.

The most important is the recognition that "it is imperative for all countries and the international community to reinstate the attainment of full, productive, appropriately and adequately remunerated and freely chosen employment as a central objective of economic and social policies". This is a remarkably resolute statement at a time when unemployment is terribly high and still growing in some countries, both developed and developing.

It was linked with an important innovation, the recognition that setting time-bound goals and targets for expanding employment and reducing unemployment "would give a strong signal of the increased priority to be awarded to this objective of full employment". One of the invited panellists, Ralph Willis, the former Australian treasurer, pointed out that many countries have set targets for the reduction of inflation or for economic growth, but few have ever set targets for the centrally important goal of employment growth and linked them with strategies for their achievement. The Commission picked up this remark and included the proposal in its recommendations.

The Commission naturally recognized that a necessary requirement for enhancing employment growth is economic growth, and that the nature of such growth determines the extent of the impact on employment. For example, in most developing countries the informal--unregulated--sector is a major area of low productivity income-earning opportunity. Therefore, increasing productivity in rural and urban informal sectors is vital. …

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