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Global leaders support innovative skills for inclusive growth

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ILO Director-General Guy Ryder

To foster opportunities for inclusive, fair and sustainable future of work, labour ministers have reaffirmed their commitment to promote innovative skills policies, strengthen social protection, and formalise labour markets to make them more equitable and inclusive.

In their declaration at the just-concluded G20 Education and Employment Ministers’ meeting in Argentina, they endorsed the G20 Strategy to eradicate child labour, forced labour, human trafficking and modern slavery in the world of work.

They also expressed their commitment to promoting the participation of persons with disabilities in the labour market, and recognised the need to enable women to participate equally in the digital economy, with the objective of reducing the gender gap by 25 per cent by Year 2025.

Although Nigeria is not a member, the policies raised at the meeting are all part of the malaise Nigerian workers confront daily.

The menu is framed around four overarching objectives – harness the benefits of technology for growth and productivity, support people during transitions, secure sustainable tax systems and ensure the best possible evidence to inform decision-making. 

However, experts in Nigeria argued that Africa in general is not yet prepared for the future of work, as it metamorphoses especially with the use of technology. 

They urged Nigeria to work together with the ILO to develop responses to prepare the country for the emerging future of work so that it does not meet the country unprepared. 

The Director-General Designate, Nigerian Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Timothy Olawale, noted that although there are many perspectives to the future of work, tools needed to prepare for the future of work should be driven by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment to get Nigeria prepared.

He said the ILO has done tremendous work on the future of work where Nigeria participates actively.

On gender perspective, he recommended that this be incorporated into the labour laws in line with international conventions and provisions, to sustain and encourage women in the world of work to be at par with their peers.

He said: “Once it is imbedded in our laws, it becomes implementable, instead of playing lip service to improvement of women in the world of work.

It becomes an offence even when you are not going to be implementing.”

The President, United Labour Congress (ULC), Joe Ajaero, stressed the need for up skilling and retooling of workers to prepare them for the new technological advantage, and for Nigeria to move forward in tandem with other developed economies.

He argued that since workers are the people who pay taxes, and without jobs, money will not be realised from tax; as such, the issue is not reducing the number of workers, but how the economy and its commerce would fare in the absence of people in the real economy.

But the President and Chairman of Council, Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM), Prof. Olukunle Iyanda, opined that Nigeria is still developing and can’t operate like the developed countries.

He therefore complained about policy imposition, saying: “they are now imposing those work conditions of service on us. When they were in our development stage such conditions were not there. 

“That is why some aspects of the ILO standards can create constraint for us.

But when we put Nigeria first, that will mean a lot of exercise in analysing what is best for Nigeria.”

For the country’s conditions of employment to rise to the ILO standard, he said: “Let us first of all create the employment opportunities. Let our industries thrive so that they can employ masses of people, then labour will become relatively scarce than the employment opportunities. 

“When there is plenty of work, labour would be scarce relative and thereby labour conditions would begin to improve, but when you have labour totally outstripping employment opportunity, the employer would have a determinate say in offering working conditions.”

It is pertinent that Nigeria should adopt policies that would meet up to the ILO standards to prepare the teeming generation for the future of work.

Meanwhile, in the joint declaration, the G20 ministers had insisted that coordination between education and employment policies is vital to ensure that workers’ skills matched the demand by enterprises.

Argentine Government Secretary of Employment and Labour, Jorge Triaca, said technological changes would require workers and the citizenry to have access to knowledge and skill training for different jobs and professions.

He said: “The joint declaration stresses the importance of designing public policies based on lifelong professional training.

The technological changes we are facing today will require our people to have access to knowledge and skill training for different jobs and professions.”

The Director-General, International Labour Organisation (ILO), Guy Ryder, at the meeting praised the commitment by G20 labour and employment ministers, to promote decent work for an inclusive future.

He expressed concern on work for women, urging a re-engineering of the relationship between parenthood, unpaid care work and paid employment, saying: “we need to lower the structural barriers that women face in labour markets arising from their status as mothers or potential mothers.

Elements of this have already been put in place in a number of G20 countries, but they need to be scaled up and become more integrated.”

According to Ryder, the declaration calls on G20 members to ensure that everyone benefited from the opportunities that would be created in the future of work, and also recognise the critical role that social protection plays in achieving this.

He also highlighted the need to put people and work at the forefront of national strategies for sustainable growth.

He said effective social dialogue between governments and the social partners is key to achieving these goals, adding that coordination between education and employment policies is vital, to ensure that the skills of workers matched those being demanded by enterprises.

“We recognise that countries have made valuable progress,” he admitted, urging, “a more equal distribution of care responsibilities between men and women” and “increasing the participation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related skills training. 

“These challenges demand global solutions. Multilateralism remains a potent force that is uniquely suited to resolve many of the world’s most pressing problems.

Furthermore, multilateral fora like the G20 need to prioritise their responses to inequality and go beyond economic growth policies alone.

Together we can and must build a new international consensus in favour of growth and development, and against poverty and unemployment.

“To meet the skills development needs of the future, traditional education and training systems have to undergo major adjustments.

The front-loading of qualifications for a whole lifetime is not sufficient anymore. This calls for revisiting the model of lifelong learning, to create the future of work we want.”

The Joint Declaration further underscored the importance of promoting opportunities for people to re-skill and up-skill throughout their working lives, so that they can successfully adapt to changes in the workplace. It also re-states the commitment made by G20 countries to reduce the gender gap in access to education and skills.


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