ILO urges universal labour guarantee
Warns of destructive repercussions, uncertainty without decisive actions
As heads of State and business leaders gather in Davos for the World Economic Forum this week, the UN agency that sets international labour standards is asking them to commit to a universal labour guarantee, universal social protection from birth to old age, an international governance system for the gig economy, and a human-in-command approach to artificial intelligence.
In a report on the ‘Future of Work’, released in Geneva on Tuesday to mark its centenary, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) warned that “without decisive action we will be sleepwalking into a world that widens inequality, increases uncertainty and reinforces exclusion, with destructive political, social and economic repercussions.”
Around the world, 190 million people are unemployed, while 300 million workers live in extreme poverty, according to the ILO. Wage gaps are growing at a time of declining wage growth.
Two-thirds of jobs in the developing world are susceptible to automation, and only 15% of households in emerging countries have Internet access. Implementing the Paris Climate Agenda could create 24 million new jobs, but it could still be brutal to the 6 million workers expected to lose their jobs in the transition to a greener economy.
In such a situation, the ILO asked all countries to “place people at the centre of economic and social policy”, ensuring that final decisions are taken by human beings.
It suggested that an international governance system be set up to police the gig economy, and ensure that ‘digital labour platforms’ such as Uber and Swiggy respect certain minimum rights and protections.
To reduce inequalities, the ILO recommends that “the development of the rural economy, where the future of many the world’s workers lies, should become a priority”.
Urging a universal labour guarantee to ensure a living wage, the ILO sought limits on working hours and work safety norms. In its report the labour organisation observes that “the future of work requires a strong and responsive social protection system based on the principles of solidarity and risk sharing, which supports people’s needs over the life cycle”. In order to cope with change, it suggests that countries commit to a universal entitlement to lifelong learning, which would help people reskill and upskill.
The report is the result of a 15-month review by a 27-member commission co-chaired by the South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and the Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven. Indians on the commission included Reema Nanavaty, who leads the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), and Alwyn Didar Singh, former Secretary General of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and a retired Secretary to the Government of India.