Summary: 6 July 2012, New York - Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States by Mr George Papageorgiou, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Insurance of Cyprus, at the United National 2012 Annual Ministerial Review: General debate
I am speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Acceding country Croatia*, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Iceland** and Serbia*, the countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this statement.
Let me first of all thank the Economic and Social Council for all its preparatory work, including organizing events such as the joint meeting with the PBC and the youth-related activities held so far this year.
Economic growth is an important precondition for job creation, poverty eradication and thus for reaching the MDGs. Greening the economy, including increasing resource consumption efficiency and promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns, can contribute to competitiveness and is essential to promote long term equitable growth, decent jobs creation, human health and well-being, providing benefits for all citizens. We are therefore convinced that the transition to a green and inclusive economy can contribute towards sustainable growth and poverty reduction for countries at all stages of development.
Worldwide, unemployment rates are very high among young people (aged 15 to 24), and women continue to suffer discrimination in terms of education, jobs available to them, their remuneration, benefits and working conditions, and access to decision-making positions.
We are of the view that reforms aimed at improving the functioning of labour markets remain pressing priorities: primary, secondary and tertiary education, enhanced labour market flexibility and training are essential components for bringing people back to work and increasing productivity. We believe that nationally defined strategies developed in cooperation with social partners which combine: effective labour market policies, including those which will facilitate bringing people back to work and increasing productivity; modern social security systems; vocational training and education are essential in order to ensure workers' employability. Flexible and secure contractual arrangements which meet the needs of both employers and workers can also contribute to improved labour market situations.
We believe that well-functioning labour markets and a healthy business climate are needed to enable individuals, especially young people, and businesses to take advantage of new growth opportunities, including through the promotion of entrepreneurship and self-employment.
The private sector plays a vital role in development in many countries, including through public-private partnerships, by generating employment and investment, by developing new technologies, and enabling strong, sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth. Conducive framework conditions are needed for a vibrant private sector to become an engine for sustainable development and poverty eradication.
According to recent ILO reports, young people are globally three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and over 75 million youth worldwide are out of work. There is an urgent need to reverse the trend now. We must increase and actively support opportunities for young people to gain access to productive employment and decent work, including investment in education and vocational training, youth employment programmes, youth-adult partnerships and public-private partnerships. Volunteering, mentoring and work experience opportunities can also provide valuable fundamental skills development for young people, improving their chances at securing important entry-level positions that currently exist in many industries globally.
We should also reinforce links between policies on education, skills development, employer engagement, social integration and mobility which will contribute to poverty eradication and achieving the MDGs. Improving working conditions and promoting decent jobs will benefit young people in the labour market. Promotion of core ILO labour standards is of the utmost importance.
The situation in EU labour markets is of major concern. Employment is one of the 5 headline targets of the Europe 2020, a strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. We need to promote the kind of growth whose success is not only evaluated in proportion to the GDP, but in a more comprehensive and balanced manner that also takes into account the environmental and social dimension of growth.
We are taking a two-pronged approach in the EU, with measures to ensure financial stability and fiscal consolidation as well as action to foster growth, competitiveness, and employment and to tackle the social consequences of the crisis.
Abroad, the European Union remains committed to the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the decade 2011-2020, notably as regards productive capacities, one of the key priority areas for actions. We welcome efforts made by the African Union in education and training, bearing in mind that the majority of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are in Africa. The EU supports bilateral and regional cooperation with the LDCs , in full respect of the principle of ownership and leadership over their own development. .
The International Labour Organization, as the central organ responsible for deliberating on issues related to this Annual Ministerial Review, has advanced and continues to work in this area. As noted by the ILO itself, "The ILO Global Jobs Pact and the Decent Work Agenda provide the policy framework to confront the crisis". Indeed, the recent International Labour Conference, held in Geneva, adopted important conclusions and a resolution on youth employment and a Recommendation on Social Protection Floors that should guide our work in these areas. We remain committed to the principles and values of the ILO Decent Work Agenda and Global Jobs Pact, which are now more relevant than ever. The Social Protection Floor Initiative and the Millennium Development Goals provide a framework within which policies based on social justice can be designed and developed.
Let me conclude, Mr President, by welcoming the work undertaken by the G20 on employment, in particular concerning youth, and the recently adopted Los Cabos Growth and Jobs Action Plan as well as the Rio+20 outcome document.
Close collaboration of relevant international organisations, including the ILO, the IMF, the OECD and the World Bank, and public-private partnerships in a wide range of areas with the aim of eradicating poverty, promoting full employment and social integration are essential.
* Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
** Iceland continues to be a member of EFTA and the European Economic Area.