Mrs. Faith Innerarity,
Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports
on Agenda Item 3(A): Priority Theme: Promoting Full Employment and Decent Work for All
at the Forty-Sixth Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development
7 February 2008,
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates, Jamaica fully aligns itself with the statement made by Antigua and Barbuda on behalf of the G77 and China.
Since the World Social Summit there has been general consensus that the promotion of full employment within a system of fair globalization is central to the achievement of social development goals. The decent work agenda incorporating employment creation, workers’ rights, social protection, social dialogue and equal opportunities, provides an excellent framework for ensuring policy coherency in the economic and social spheres. This integrated approach has been fully embraced by Jamaica and other countries in the Caribbean in the implementation of various economic development initiatives, including those involving foreign direct investment or multilateral agreements.
The relevant government entities as well as Non-Government Organizations in Jamaica, for example, have taken a very proactive approach in ensuring that the economic benefits which accrue from major infrastructural expansion projects with foreign investment partners in the tourism sector, are not at the expense of environmental sustainability and that social policy objectives, such as the protection of workers’ rights, are not compromised.
Our commitment to decent work is signalled by our ratification of the ILO Conventions on core labour standards, including the Conventions on the “Minimum Age of Employment’’ and the “Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour”. In addition, discussions surrounding the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) have included focus on the establishment of a “social floor” to encompass a range of provisions such as those mentioned in the Secretary-General’s reports. A CARICOM Reciprocal Social Security Agreement is already in place to support the Free Movement of Skills in the region.
There are, however, a significant number of challenges which are of national, regional and international significance which need to be overcome if the decent work agenda is to be fully realized. These include:
· The increasing size and complexity of the informal sector, including a-typical and non-standard forms of employment relationships in formal establishments. This trend is reflected in the significant coverage gap in the social protection system.
· High levels of youth unemployment linked not only with the limited availability of jobs and the preference of some employers for workers with “experience”, but also structural factors such as the lack of symmetry between the curriculum of education and training institutions and labour market demands. We welcome in the 2007 World Youth Report the inclusion of a section on “Tackling the Poverty of Opportunity in Small Island Developing States”, as it highlights a number of pertinent issues relating to youth unemployment in Caribbean countries including Jamaica. As stated in the Report “the high rate of youth unemployment in the small island developing states represent a significant waste of productive resources and are the root of an array of socio-economic problems in these countries”.
· A complex range of labour migration issues such as the loss of the most educated and highly skilled workers to developed countries, after significant investments have been made to enhance human resource development in the sending countries; and the vulnerability of mainly low skilled un-documented migrants to exploitation, poverty and social exclusion in the absence of social protection for themselves and their families. In this regard we therefore welcome efforts now being made by the international community to address comprehensively the challenges of opportunities posed by internal migration for both sending and receiving State.
· Need for active labour market policies to address among other issues, the constant retraining of workers, including older persons, to ensure flexible adaptation to the changing labour market situation within the context of globalisation, technological advances and the emergence of the knowledge-based economy.
· Continued discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment practices and the unwillingness of some employers to make reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities, even where this is dictated by government policy guidelines.
· Gender inequalities in the labour market represented by higher levels of unemployment for females, especially young women. In the Caribbean, for example, this is occurring within a context where women are recording significantly higher levels of educational attainment than men, as represented in the current enrolment ratio of 82% females to 18% males on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.
In light of the strong linkages between employment, poverty eradication and social integration and the broader sustainable development goals, it is imperative that efforts be redoubled to address the challenging issues just outlined, as well as other factors which impinge on the realization of the decent work agenda.
The Report of the Secretary-General on Promoting Full Employment and Decent Work (E/CN.5/2008/4) not only provides a comprehensive review of a range of pertinent trends and concerns but also a useful set of policy recommendations which could be adopted by member states. These encompass the integration of economic and social policies, enterprise development taking into account the rural sector, training and skills enhancement, expanding coverage and effectiveness of social protection systems, and the strengthening of the institutional capacity to promote social dialogue and the regulatory framework for enforcement of core labour standards. The need for strengthened partnerships and collaboration at the international level is also highlighted in the report and this is of critical importance.
Other essential strategies and approaches necessary for successful achievement of the Decent work agenda include direct and special focus on the causes of youth unemployment and best practices to eliminate this problem as well as the mainstreaming of gender, age and disability in all employment policies.
To these the Government of Jamaica remain committed and intend to pursue as an imperative.