Ministry of Employment and Labor and International Labor Office:

Similar Aim, Different Agenda

Interview with Jean-Luc Martinage, Senior Communications Officer at ILO

 

Lee Su-ryeon

Staff, International Affairs Team

 

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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.

 

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Introduction to International Labor Organization

The 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 #8?


The ILO 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 work.

The ILO 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.

It 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.

 

Mr. 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.

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