[Issue] [February 2016] International Agenda : Ministry of Employment and Labor and International Labor Office

Ministry of Employment and Labor and International Labor

Similar Aim, Different Agenda

with Jean-Luc Martinage, Senior Communications Officer at ILO


Lee Su-ryeon

Staff, International Affairs Team



The labor
guidelines announced by the Ministry of Employment and Labor are stirring controversy
between the government and labor organizations. The Ministry of Employment and Labor
announced last month that an employer could fire an underperforming employee
who fails to improve, after receiving additional training and transferring to
another department. The government says this will make the labor market more
flexible and help boost the economy, while labor organizations criticized the
announcement for threatening employment stability.


On the
other hand, a new global development agenda was adopted during a Special
Session at the UN General Assembly in New York City last August. The UN
suggested that each country take responsibility for implementing Sustainable Development
Goals (SDGs). SDGs include 17 goals in economy, social, and environmental
issues, which give direction for a sustainable society. To better understand
the meaning of the goals, we e-mail interviewed with Jean-Luc Martinage, the
Senior Communication Officer at the International Labor Office (ILO) in Geneva.



Introduction to International Labor Organization

International Labor Organization (ILO) is the United Nations agency for the
world of work. It sets international labor standards, promotes the rights of
workers, and encourages decent employment opportunities for the enhancement of
social protection and the strengthening of dialogue on work-related issues. The
ILO has a unique structure, bringing together governments, employers’ and
workers’ representatives.


– SDGs goal #8 seems to have deep significance in that it addresses economic
issue unlike the MDGs. I know that the ILO contributed a lot to set this goal
in the SDGs. Could you share your opinion about the reason why the UN set SDGs

was indeed a strong advocate for the inclusion of Goal #8 which aims to
“promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and
productive employment and decent work for all” in the new Sustainable
development Goals (SDGs).

We believe
decent work is key for sustainable development. It is estimated that over 600
million new jobs need to be created by 2030 just to keep pace with the growth
of the global working-age population. That’s around 40 million per year. We
also need to improve conditions for some 780 million men and women who are
working, but not earning enough to lift themselves and their families out of a
USD 2-a-day poverty.


– This goal provides a lot of implications to young people in Korea. In
recent years, young people have even called the country “Hell Joseon” (the
former name of Korea), implying that the country is hellish, and therefore
hopeless for the younger generation. The reason we began this series of
articles was to investigate sustainable development from the perspective of
young people. Within SDG #8 we find several targets for young people, such as
target #8.5 and #8.6. Could you explain these targets in more detail?

Target 8.5
and 8.6 are crucial targets for young people because the world is facing a
worsening youth employment crisis. Young people are three times more likely to
be unemployed than adults and almost 73 million youth worldwide are looking for

has warned of a “scarred” generation of young workers facing a dangerous mix of
high unemployment, increased inactivity and precarious work in developed
countries, as well as persistently high working poverty in the developing
world. So, urgent action needs to be taken.


– We read that by 2020, one of the targets is to develop and operationalize
a global strategy for youth employment and implement the ILO Global Jobs Pact.
Why is the ILO Global Jobs Pact important in developing a global strategy for
youth employment? What significance does it hold?

The Global
Jobs Pact is a set of balanced and realistic policy measures that countries can
adopt to ease the impact of the crisis and accelerate recovery in
employment. Adopted in June 2009, it calls on ILO member-states to put decent
work opportunities at the core of their crisis responses. It addresses the
social impact of the global crisis on employment and proposes job-centered
policies for countries to adapt according to their national needs.


Guided by
the Decent Work Agenda and commitments made by the ILO constituents in the 2008
Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization, the Pact recalls that
that respecting fundamental principles and rights at work, strengthening social
protection, promoting gender equality and encouraging voice, participation and
social dialogue are critical to recovery and development.

proposes a portfolio of policies aimed at generating employment, extending
social protection, respecting labor standards, promoting social dialogue and
shaping fair globalization. In short, the Pact is about promoting jobs and
protecting people, while responding to both the people’s agenda and the needs of
the real economy.


– This is the last question. I think that SDGs have enormous implications in
the “real economy” of Korea, as well as worldwide. Could you please give us
suggestions for the successful implementation of SDGs in Korean society?

The ILO is
a global agency, so it is for Korean social partners: government, employers’
and workers’ organizations, as well as civil society as a whole, to implement
the SDGs and adapt them to national priorities. The ILO stands ready to support
Korean authorities as well as social partners in this implementation process.


Martinage stressed that decent work is the core of sustainable development. He
also declared that Korea needs to solve its job problem through the engagement
of government, companies and workers. To the same end, the MEL aims to solve
the youth job problem in Korea by focusing on efficiency, while the SDGs
developed by the ILO focus on social protections.