Policies, Cooperation in Response to Global Economic Crisis ‘Inadequate’, Assistant Secretary General Tells Social Development Commission

8 February 2010
Economic and Social CouncilSOC/4761
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission for Social Development

Forty-eighth Session

8th & 9th Meetings (AM & PM)

Policies, Cooperation in Response to Global Economic Crisis ‘Inadequate’,

Assistant Secretary General Tells Social Development Commission

International Labour Organization Says World Suffering from Ruthless,

Prolonged Jobs Crisis; ‘If Unattended May Leave Deep Scars on Our Societies’

The policy responses to the global financial crisis had been inadequate and characterized by double standards, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, told the Commission on Social Development as it began its discussion of policy responses on employment and the social consequences of the financial and economic crises, including its gender dimension.

Large economies had taken fiscal stimulus measures, but poorer ones desperately in need of such steps ‑‑ which were crucial for job creation ‑‑ had not been able to do so, he said.  International cooperation on the crisis, in general, had also been inadequate.  “A much more coordinated economic recovery would have resulted in benefits for all major groups, especially the least developed countries,” he said.

International assistance for the developed world ‑‑ vital for economic recovery ‑‑ had been scant, he said.  Unemployment was still rising, particularly among women in developing countries ‑‑ who suffered joblessness at a rate of 6.3 per cent, versus 5.8 per cent for men.  An estimated 51 million more people would lose their jobs in the developing world.  Evidence showed that hikes in unemployment forced more women into prostitution and spurred domestic violence.

A representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said the world was suffering from a ruthless, prolonged jobs crisis.  Unemployment would likely increase in 2011, particularly in developed economies, despite signs of economic recovery.  “Whatever shape the recovery takes, the reality is that this crisis, if unattended, may leave deep scars on our societies, depriving the vulnerable segments of the population of the opportunities to develop their human capital and their productive capacities for years to come,” he said.

The ILO was working to monitor and assess the crisis’ labour market implications, but the dearth of statistics in poor countries made that task daunting, he said.  Estimates showed that the total number of unemployed in the world may have reached well over 200 million, with a sharp increase in 2009, and a similar number of workers risked falling into poverty.  Harsh pressures on wages, shrinking work hours, more informal job arrangements and reverse migration were cutting the earnings of poor households.

The ILO was working with international partners to find solutions, he said.  At the request of the Group of 20 (G-20), the ILO had conducted an inventory of employment and social protection measures adopted in about 50 countries.  Good policy mattered, he said, and stressed that countercyclical measures had helped generate up to 11 million jobs, buffering social distress and helping restore some degree of economic confidence.  Furthermore, countries with established social protection system or safety net schemes that could be scaled up rapidly had been better able to cushion the crises’ impact on vulnerable groups, he said.  Transfer programmes in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, India and Bangladesh were good examples of that.

Several delegates took the floor to discuss their respective Governments’ strategies to spur job growth at home and abroad.  For example, the Republic of Korea’s Government had allocated $25 billion to help retain jobs and expand employment opportunities in 2009, according to that country’s delegate.  Australia’s representative said her Government had teamed with the Interamerican Development Bank to promote women’s participation in the labour market in Peru through a microfinance project that would support 100,000 women entrepreneurs there.

The Commission also concluded its general discussion on the review of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups.  Several delegates took the floor to shed light on their respective Governments’ laws and action plans to create social protection floors and ensure the rights of vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, young people and those with disabilities.  For example, China’s representative said her Government had created a social service network for the elderly and set up more than 40,000 service-oriented institutions for them nationwide.

Argentina’s Government had formed a national body within its Ministry of Social Development to address youth issues and it created programmes to provide job training to millions of young people, as well as sexual education and substance abuse counselling, according to its Government representative.  The United Republic of Tanzania’s representative said his Government had conducted a national disability survey and created guidelines for employing disabled people in the public sector.  Jamaica’s representative said her Government was hammering out a disability rights act.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Mexico, Chile, Russian Federation, Italy, Japan, Iran, Republic of Korea, Qatar, Spain (on behalf of the European Union), United Kingdom, Slovakia and Cuba.

A youth delegate from Switzerland also spoke.

Representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also made statements.

Representatives of several non-governmental organizations addressed the Commission, including the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and Council, International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, World Youth Alliance and the International Trade Union Confederation.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 11 February.


The Commission for Social Development met this morning to continue its general discussion on review of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups.  (For background, see Press Release SOC/4757 of 1 February.)


SILVIA BERSANELLI (Argentina) said Argentina had made significant advances in the area of disabilities.  It had adopted a disabilities law in 1981, set up a National Advisory Commission for the Integration of People with Disabilities and a Federal Council on Disabilities.  It had also created a National Rehabilitation Service, a central body within the Ministry of Health that provided services and coordinated them with other Government offices.  All of that was done in accordance with the Disabilities Convention.  In 1995, the Government created the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism.  It worked to protect the rights of disabled people and guarantee them equal rights and the same treatment accorded to the non-disabled population.

The Government had also created a national body to help youth within the Ministry of Social Development, she said.  In 2008, a programme was set up to provide job training to millions of people between 15 and 29 years of age.  Programmes were also set up to assist youth in terms of sexual education, human rights, community participation and substance abuse, among other areas.  The national food security plan promoted nutrition education and supported food self-sufficiency and food security in the context of health and development.  At present, it assisted some 1.74 million households.  The National Family Plan worked to strength the nuclear family, preserve cultural identify and protect rights and opportunity.  In recent months, the Government had created a programme to provide universal social protection for children.

Mr. ALDAMA (Mexico) said overcoming poverty and bringing social integration required multidimensional policies that allowed all to have mobility and which required an institutional architecture that would provide continuity, consistency and technical expertise in combating poverty and exclusion.  The approach should be accompanied by co-responsibility by financial parties and civil society.  In many regions of the world, youth represented a broad sector of the population, but did not have sufficient and dignified employment.  They should be offered health, shelter, food, training and education.  Not responding to their needs would result in international migration.

As the world was becoming older, all must commit to inclusion of the elderly through comprehensive social strategies, including through implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action.  Further, there was an undeniable link between poverty and disabilities.  Disabilities should, therefore, be included in a legislative framework, including its financial aspects.  Persons with disabilities should also be included in the work of the United Nations, in that regard.  There was also a need to create systems for national censuses for people with disabilities, and a quick and effective review of policies for persons with disabilities States had been adopting.

BELÉN SAPAG (Chile) said Chile was strongly committed to the Copenhagen goals.  She reaffirmed the importance of continuing to develop and implement guidelines on treatment of the elderly, in accordance with the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing.  She supported the Secretary-General’s report on the Madrid Plan of Action and contributions by 55 Member States and observers on how to improve the action plan.  Chile was doing its part, in that regard.  It was creating strategies that promoted human rights for the elderly.  The Commission’s discussions should focus on human rights for the elderly, particularly as they faced abuse and abandonment.  Chile’s President had focused national policy on that.

Policies focused on social inclusion of the elderly, she said.  The Government had created a series of programmes to give the elderly access to property, housing and subsistence pension.  Chile was also implementing a reform to guarantee a pension to people aged 65 or older.  The Government had included a gender perspective in social sector reform.  Further, the Government was working to implement the recommendations of the Madrid Plan of Action.

Mr. SHAPOVALOV (Russian Federation) said guaranteeing citizens’ rights and interests was one of the most important aspects of his country’s policies.  There was a need to provide a decent life to the most vulnerable groups, such as youth, senior citizens and those with limited means.  Those needs were reflected in this country’s social programmes.  The national youth strategy was aimed, among other things, at promoting implementation of their abilities.  During the current period of crisis, the provision of appropriate support for family life was as important as ever.  Measures were being undertaken to support families with children.

He said that another challenge was the problem of an ageing population.  In his country, measures were taken not only to improve the material well-being of the elderly, but also to extend their active life.  In 2010, his country had significantly increased pensions and had introduced new measures for social assistance.  Assistance to senior citizens was provided by special social services.  Also, an important element of State policy was devoted to persons with disabilities.  In 2008, the Russian Federation had signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  At the national level, his Government was creating the conditions to provide disabled people with opportunities for employment, integration and access and norms and rules for disabilities would be binding at every level.

WANG XUN (China) said China’s elderly population was now 167 million people, or 12.7 per cent of the total population and one fifth of the world’s elderly.  The Chinese Government had incorporated ageing issues into overall national development.  It had put in place a comprehensive social security system, based on the principles of social insurance, social relief and social welfare.  It provided people with a basic pension, basic health care and a minimum life guarantee.  It was supplemented by charities and commercial insurance.  In 2009, a pilot project to provide social pensions in rural areas was launched.  It covered about 10 per cent of the counties in the country.  Much had been done to develop a social service network for the elderly.  More than 40,000 service-oriented institutions for the elderly had been set up in urban and rural areas.  The Government had also set up a service system for people with disabilities.  Strategies to assist the disabled were incorporated into China’s 2009-2010 Human Rights Action Plan.

In 2009, the national budget for services to people with disabilities increased by 62.21 per cent, she said.  Key projects focused on rehabilitation for poor, disabled children, cataract extractions for 1 million poor disabled people and the construction of 100 model cities, with access for disabled people.  Work was under way to build a Life and Sunshine Pavilion for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.  The pavilion would be the first world expo pavilion dedicated to persons with disabilities.  Further, the Government had also created many programmes to assist youth.  It had set up favourable tax policies and measures to help unemployed urban youth find jobs and start their own businesses.  More than 100,000 job fairs had been held.

ROBERTO STORACI (Italy) said his country had signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol and had created a national observatory to improve their social integration, which promoted the implementation of the Convention and collected statistical data on the conditions of persons with disabilities, among other things.  Italy’s Development Cooperation programmes had also taken an inclusive approach to action on disabilities, among other things through financing programmes in Kosovo, El Salvador, Jordan and Tunisia.  The rights of persons with disabilities should be fully integrated into actions to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  His country’s strategies to improve young people’s lives and combat poverty focused on increasing educational opportunities and enhancing economic integration, among other things through facilitating the transition from school to work, increasing the number of technical schools, and correlating graduate studies with the needs of the labour market.

He said mainstreaming ageing in the context of labour market reform and revamping social protection was a priority in his country.  His Government sought a gradual increase in the retirement age and the abolition of restrictions on combining pension benefits with employment income.  Persons aged 65 and over were still more likely to be in poverty.  That situation called for a careful evaluation of the current benefit system.  His Government had also sought to prevent disability and loss of autonomy as a result of low income, social isolation and deteriorating health.  Tax benefits had been established to supplement family income, including special subsidies for families, employees and retirees and special subsidies to reduce the electricity bills of poor families.

TETSUJI MIYAMOTO (Japan) said Japan had worked to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by empowering people in need and improving the conditions in which they lived.  Young people were vital for developing societies and their empowerment was crucial.  Japan’s Government believed that tackling youth unemployment was an urgent matter, because youth had been most affected by the recent global financial and economic crisis.  The number of regular full-time jobs for new graduates was decreasing and the number of young people hired part-time was growing.  To promote youth employment, Japan’s Government had hired more advisers for the Public Employment Security Office and it was encouraging schools to step up assistance to students looking for jobs.

In July 2009, Japan’s Government introduced the Act on Promotion of Development and Support for Children and Young People to help those having difficulty participating in society because they had dropped out of school or were not employed, educated or trained, he said.  Further, most of the world’s disabled people lived in poverty.  The Japanese public had a strong interest in promoting and protecting the rights of the disabled and the Government had introduced several initiatives last year to assist the disabled.  In December, it set up the Ministerial Board for the Promotion of Systemic Reforms for Persons with Disabilities.  Last month, it created the Committee to Promote Systemic Reforms for Persons with Disabilities.  Japan was also in the process of ratifying the Disabilities Convention.

Mr. FISCHER (Denmark) said that mainstreaming disability not only contributed to ensure that people with disabilities had the same options as others, but was also a crucial element in securing equal rights for everyone.  A Danish project, based in the Equal Opportunities Centre for Disabled Persons, had aimed at changing the way of thinking at the municipal level, so that the needs of people with disabilities was integrated into all municipal policy and planning.  The project was based on the principle of sector responsibility.

He said that persons with disabilities were significantly underrepresented in the Danish common cultural, sports and leisure associations.  To deal with that challenge, his Government was working on a national charter for inclusion, with the leading representatives of associational life in Denmark.  He noted that Danish activities regarding implementation of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also included targeting people with mental disabilities.

MOHSEN EMADI (Iran) said protecting people with disabilities was part of Iranian policy.  Almost 3 million people in Iran had disabilities.  Most of them were disabled due to war, imposed on Iran for eight years, and action by terrorist groups.  In 2004, the Government of Iran adopted comprehensive legislation to protect the disabled.  Extensive efforts had been made to mitigate the material and psychological concerns of disabled people.  The Government had set up a medical fund to treat people with disabilities.  It provided special employment facilities, housing and sports activities for disabled people, among other measures adopted in recent years.  Iran was also an active regional partner in activities to help disabled people.  He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation that Member States and development agencies continue efforts to mainstream disability concerns into the overall development agenda and development programming.

Iran’s Government had designed various policies and programmes to support the family and its foundation, he said.  The Centre for Women and Family Affairs, affiliated with the Office of the President, was charged with monitoring implementation of family and women’s policies.  Other social groups, such as the elderly and youth, were receiving appropriate support from the Iranian Government.  Four Government organizations ‑‑ Iman Khomeini Relief Committee, Matyr’s Foundation, the Ministry of Social Welfare and the State Retirement Organization ‑‑ provided support and services to the elderly, working in partnership with non-governmental organizations.

JEONG KEE HONG (Republic of Korea) said that, as of 2010, 11 per cent of the total population in his country were aged 65 and over, which was expected to nearly double by 2026.  His Government had, therefore, enacted the Basic Act on Low Fertility and an Aged Society.  A pension scheme introduced in 2008 now covered 70 per cent of the elderly population.  Employment services for the elderly had also been established and his Government had made every effort to faithfully implement the Madrid International Plan of Action.  Also, in an effort to ensure full participation of persons with disabilities and to advocate their rights, his Government had implemented the 2008 Anti-Discrimination Act.  It had also introduced various measures and programmes to ensure income security for persons with disabilities, in particular through the advancement of employment opportunities.

He said his country also strove to fully realize the spirit of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the everyday lives of children and youth.  The Government assisted and provided support to young people in vulnerable situations by offering a one-stop service of protection, counselling, medical treatment and self-support programmes at the community level.  As there were not enough decent jobs for young people, the Government had established such projects as the Youth Employment Promotion Measures.  The Government also provided various vocational education and on-the-job experience programmes.  In 2010, the Republic of Korea would host the Group of 20 (G-20) Youth Network Forum.

MOHAMMED SULTAN AL-KUWARI (Qatar) said that, convinced of the importance of social development, his Government had adopted legislation aimed at consolidating and implementing a national vision through 2030, through which the country would become a developed State able to achieve sustainable development.  The vision was made up of a comprehensive national strategy covering four main pillars:  human; social; economic; and environmental development.  Through that vision, which was elaborated by the Secretariat of Development plan, based on a 2008 decree, the Government would set up a programme to promote cohesive families that could enjoy heightened social protection, with an important role for women in economic and political decision-making.  The vision also sought to promote security and stability in society, guarantee equality of opportunity and encourage dialogue, tolerance and openness with other cultures, in harmony with Qatar’s Islamic and cultural identity.

He said that the social protection programme defines a strong, cohesive family unit that respects the ethical, moral and religious values of Qataris.  Along those lines, the Emir of Qatar had passed laws designed to meet those challenges, and a royal decree of 2009 created a High Council for the Family, which was the main body in charge of protecting families and the roles of its individual members.  The national strategy for families was commensurate with Qatar’s national vision of improving the well-being of families, and was in line with its goal of promoting women’s participation in economic and political life.  The Government was also working to raise society’s awareness of such issues as protection and rehabilitation of disabled persons and juvenile delinquents, with the Ministry of Social Affairs tasked with organizing community and charitable activities and development programmes.  The Government had a “flowchart system” for monitoring and managing social programmes protecting the elderly and families.  Another royal decree had created a Secretariat of planning and development to follow up on its vision.

DUNFORD MAKALA (United Republic of Tanzania) said his Government continued to develop programmes to enable vulnerable children, the elderly, people with disabilities and people living with HIV/AIDS to develop and contribute to society.  The United Republic of Tanzania had a tradition of respecting and valuing elderly people for their wisdom and knowledge and the Government had developed a policy to assist elderly people.  The national health policy had been amended to include free medical care for elderly people unable to pay and a social protection framework to facilitate cash transfer to the elderly.  Elderly people’s problems had been further exacerbated by the burden of caring for vulnerable children, most of whom had been orphaned because their parents had died of HIV/AIDS.  An estimated 53 per cent of vulnerable children in the United Republic of Tanzania were under the care of elderly grandparents; 12 per cent lived in child-headed households.

He shared the concerns for promoting and protecting the human rights of older people, and further discussion was needed on creation of a legal instrument for them.  He supported the concept of a special rapporteur for older persons to advocate for the rights of older people, including by encouraging existing rapporteurs to address the rights of older persons within their existing mandates.  The rapporteur could advise and support Member States in their efforts to implement the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing.  Also, the Tanzanian Government had ratified the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, the Disabilities Convention and its Optional Protocol.  The Government had conducted a national disability survey and it had issued guidelines for employing disabled people in the public sector.

COLLETE ROBERTS RISDEN (Jamaica), aligning herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the Rio Group, welcomed the Commission’s continued focus on special groups, particularly youth, older persons, those with disabilities and the family.  Her Government was working to improve the quality of life of those groups in its effort to build a people-centred society.  It had already reported on the status of policies relating to those groups last year, where, despite such challenges as rising unemployment and declining income among Jamaicans, it had not reneged on its social responsibilities and commitments.  It remained resolute in supporting the minimum social protection floor, and its commitment was evident in the continued provision of free health care and free education up to secondary level, an expanded cash transfer programme, improved social insurance benefits, continuation of the pilot “Steps to Work” programme, and a 25 per cent increase in the social safety net expenditure in the next financial year.

She said that, in 2008, 11 per cent of its population was over 60 years old, and that by 2050, that group would comprise 22 per cent of the population.  Their contribution to the country’s economy and in fostering social stability was immeasurable.  But, improved life expectancy would also likely result in significant challenges in ensuring an adequate health and social protection system.  Less than 35 per cent of people in Jamaica received a pension, and over 50 per cent of the people were engaged in informal work and did not contribute to the social insurance scheme.  The number would stand to increase, if deliberate action was not taken soon, and a social pension plan was now being considered.  The Government would also work towards a national disabilities rights act.  Last year, it removed the barriers to deaf persons receiving a driving license.

Last week, Jamaica hosted the first forum for ministers responsible for social development in the Caribbean, which examined youth issues in the context of the global crisis.  Also, the rise of non-communicable disease was becoming a challenge, with the mortality rate in the Caribbean from such diseases being among the highest in the world.  Because it was a major threat to socio-economic development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, she urged States to support the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on its resolution on non-communicable diseases and its call for a summit to establish an appropriate global response.  For its part, Jamaica had a plan to achieve developed country status by 2030, which laid the framework to mainstream its commitments under the Millennium Development Goals, World Programme of Action for Youth, the Madrid Plan for Ageing and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

AURELIO PARISOTTO, International Labour Organization (ILO) Office to the United Nations, said the Global Jobs Pact proposed a range of crisis-response measures that countries could adapt to their specific needs and situations.  It urged measures to build adequate social protection for all and a basic social protection floor that included access to health care, income security for the elderly and persons with disabilities, child benefits and income security, combined with public employment guarantee schemes for the unemployed and working poor.  Even in good times, young people found it had to get the right foothold into the labour market and were more vulnerable to the economic cycle.  They were hardest hit during a downturn.  In the context of the current economic crisis, the employment prospects of youth were worse than those of adults, and youth would take longer to benefit from economic recovery.  The ILO’s Global Employment Trends released in January 2010 showed that the number of unemployed youth in 2009 was between 79 million and 87 million people.

Governments must ensure that youth were targeted as part of policy interventions that countered the impact of the crisis and integrated youth employment programmes to promote their entry into the labour market.  The ILO was helping countries strengthen in-country labour market policies to ensure policy coherence.  For example, it was launching youth employment programmes in East Africa and West Africa to enhance the skills of disadvantaged youth.  The project on Promoting the Employability and Employment of Persons with Disabilities through Effective Legislation set up a series of tools in various languages to increase the capacity of constituents in terms of lawmaking and policy design.  The Project on Promoting Decent Work for People with Disabilities through a Disability Inclusion Support Service aimed to help countries create and operate such services.

LILA PROUNIS, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and Council, urged the Commission to consider the family as an important component in its consideration of social development.  Under human rights norms, the family was recognized as a basic unit of society and was entitled to State protection.  General Assembly resolutions also emphasized that the family should receive comprehensive support.  Where there was a lack of social integration, both individuals and their families were negatively affected ‑‑ social exclusion of individuals could result in their families becoming isolated and could even lead to violence against family members.  Those negative effects often fell more on women and children within families.

She said the need to strengthen social integration was increasingly urgent in the face of the economic and financial crisis.  Many families suffered because of job and income losses, and a large number could not afford to send children to school or provide them with adequate nutrition.  Children and women were vulnerable to stress and deprivation when their main breadwinner was affected.  Special attention should be given to families during times of unemployment, to avoid a deleterious effect on marital and family life and to preserve children’s well-being.

She said that, because growing social tension and unrest could jeopardize social cohesion, national policies must ensure economic and social protection for families during periods of ill health, disability and old age.  For example, HIV/AIDS weakened family systems and the stigma associated with the disease led to the exclusion of families with a sick family member.  Also, to discourage child labour, Governments should ensure protection of working children, particularly street children.  Grass-roots organizations should support families in their educating and socializing roles, which could promote tolerance within society.  Her organization had worked with the Romanian Orthodox Church to benefit over 2 million Romanians in preventing HIV/AIDS and family violence, providing social services, and improving health care.  With the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, it worked to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and built a clinic for expectant mothers through which they were taught how to improve their sanitary habits.  Governments should finance health care as a priority, to discourage social exclusion.  Her organization strongly urged the Commission to consider those key family issues in its final outcome document.

A representative of the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse said the population of older persons was growing worldwide.  Her non-governmental organization viewed elder abuse as a human rights issue.  It, in partnership with other organizations, had conducted seminal research on elder abuse and had described elder abuse as societal abuse.  In their responses, many older persons who participated in the study said that type of societal abuse was the root cause of the problem.  She urged the Commission to adopt the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report on follow-up to the Madrid Plan of Action for Ageing, including appointing a Special Rapporteur for the rights of the elderly and creation of a working group on their rights.

Mr. LIMA, World Youth Alliance, aligning his statement with that made by the NGO Committee on Wednesday, explained that the Alliance was a global coalition of young people from over 100 countries, aimed at promoting the dignity of persons.  The importance it gave to families was clearly shown through its grass-roots work.  Social integration meant that all members of society lived and worked together for the common good.  It was done through mutual respect for different cultures and traditions.  It could not be forced upon people by Governments, but must occur organically through a deep understanding of dignity and a desire to act in solidarity with others.

He said youth were an important element of creating an integrated society, and States must support them and their families.  It was within families that youth first learned of human dignity.  Families were central to society and States needed policies to promote family units, including through immigration policies that kept families together; by providing support to informal caregivers; and by helping parents build employment skills to reduce the temptation they faced of sending children to work.  As the son of a poor immigrant family in Canada, he was often marked for insult and censure.  But, his family gave him knowledge of his inherent dignity and he, in turn, felt a strong loyalty to his family.  When his grandmother lost her mental capacity, he knew he had to help his family to support her.  His story was a testament to how families could help build a strong sense of dignity.

The Commission then began consideration of its agenda item entitled “Follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly:  Emerging issues:  Policy responses on employment and the social consequences of the financial and economic crises, including its gender dimension”.

Statement by Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development

JOMO KWAME SUNDARAM, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the policy responses to the global financial crisis had been inadequate and characterized by double standards.  Large economies had taken fiscal stimulus measures, but poorer economies badly in need of them had not been able to. International cooperation had been inadequate.  The efforts of the G-20 were a good start, but the G-20 left many other countries on the sidelines.  The world, at the beginning of 2010, faced uncertain prospects of economic recovery.  Economic recovery was expected to be only 1 per cent to 4 per cent during 2010.  Most developed countries were expected to come out of the recession in 2010, but transition economies would experience uncertain weak recovery.

Unemployment was still rising, he said.  Job market recovery after the 1991 United States recession took two and a half years.  After that country’s 2001 recession it took four years.  Employment was crucial for income, especially for domestic demand and poverty reduction.  Fiscal stimulus was needed for job creation.  Women were more vulnerable during economic recessions and were more likely than men to be forced to accept poor work conditions.  They took on more of the unpaid work burden and informal sector jobs than men.  They were more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.  Evidence showed that an increase in unemployment resulted in more women resorting to prostitution and a rise in domestic violence.

The adverse impact of the economic crisis was greater on men than women in developed countries, he said.  In developing countries, 51 million more people would be thrown out of work, including 22 million women.  In developing countries, unemployment in 2008 increased more among women, to 6.3 per cent, while among men, it was 5.8 per cent.  In Latin America, an estimated 2.4 million workers could have lost their jobs in 2009 and the impact could have been worse for women.  In Africa, the women’s unemployment rate was way above the rate for men.  The rate was 15.9 per cent for women and 8.1 per cent for men in North Africa, and 8.3 per cent for women and 7.6 per cent for men in sub-Saharan Africa.

The lack of a concerted global response to the economic crisis had limited economic recovery, he said.  “A much more coordinated economic recovery would have resulted in benefits for all major groups, especially the least developed countries,” he said.  At the height of the crisis, the possibility had existed for a “Bretton Woods moment”, similar to the one in 1944, which focused on sustaining growth, job creation, post-war reconstruction and post-colonial development, not just financial stability.  A systemic reform agenda and a more inclusive financial system were needed.  World food prices were now much higher than they were in middle of the last decade.  Solutions to the global climate change and food crises required investment-led approaches and greater job creation from renewable energy.


Ms. DIAZ (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union welcomed the results of the G-20 Pittsburgh Summit, through which a framework was launched for a strong, sustainable economic growth and which put jobs at the heart of recovery.  It looked forward to the follow-up discussion at the G-20 Labour and Employment Ministers Meeting in April.  It appreciated the contribution of the International Labour Organization and agreed with the principles contained in the Global Jobs Pact.  The Pact sent “a very strong signal” that the international community was determined to implement its decent work agenda, with its four elements ‑‑ employment, social protection, social dialogue and rights at work.  The ILO’s social protection floor initiative was also useful.

She remarked on the differences across countries in terms of their employment and social situations, but added that countries could learn from one another on ways to cope.  The European Union labour market continued to weaken, with unemployment at 9.5 per cent and 6.9 million unemployed.  The most affected were temporary workers, immigrants, youth and older people.  Women were also severely affected, and States should ensure that the promotion of equality was not “downgraded” and that budgets allocated to those policies were not reduced.  The ILO Action Plan on Gender Equality and Gender Mainstreaming provided a strong framework for systematically focusing on both women and men to avoid the negative effects of the crisis on women’s employment and gender equality.  In the European Union, more than half of the measures under the recovery plan for 2009 and 2010 were devoted to social and labour market spending.

She added that, in many European Union countries, automatic stabilization mechanisms within the social protection systems, including broadened unemployment benefits, had cushioned the impact of the recession.  It did so by “containing the reduction of household income”, among other things.  It was thought to have reduced the impact by half, and had reinforced the European Union’s conviction to support the ILO in building a social protection floor.  Skills development and skills matching was another key priority of the European Union.  The “EU Strategy 2020” would seek to promote sustainable development hand in hand with social and environmental goals, and provided a framework for addressing both short- and long-term challenges in the next decade:  a smarter, more gender equal, greener economy where prosperity would result from innovation and from using resources better.  Social justice would be one of its most important pillars.  The European Union was also looking into how best to strengthen a gender perspective.

STEPHEN RICHARDS (United Kingdom), aligning himself with the European Union, said discussions on the crisis, a dominant item on the international agenda for a year and a half, had increasingly recognized its human dimensions, particularly the employment and social consequences.  That had been explicit in the outcomes of the jobs conference, which the United Kingdom Government held last year prior to the G-20 Summit.  The agreed focus was on helping people back into work; supporting disadvantaged groups through social protection; and developing targeted education and skills policies.  Those areas were the consistent theme of many discussions, and the ILO last year revised its conference agenda so that a full debate on the jobs crisis could be held.

He said his Government agreed with the recognition of the differing impact on women and men, explaining that it had taken specific actions to aid women, and families in particular.  Spain and the United Kingdom co-hosted a meeting of women ministers on 3 February, the largest of its kind, where participants undertook to work together to further women’s representation in politics and the economy.  It fully supported ILO recommendations that policy responses must account for the gender dimension.  As the ILO recommended, recovery packages needed to integrate gender concerns and women must have an equal voice with men in related discussions.  The United Nations itself was looking at strengthening its gender architecture, which creation could not be delayed.

On the ILO Global Jobs Pact, he said the United Kingdom was closely involved in its negotiations.  International support was cemented by G-20 leaders in Pittsburgh last September.  A key message was the need to reduce the time lag between economic recovery and recovery with decent work opportunities.  His Government supported the recommendation to promote policies that accelerated job recovery by increasing “the job content of growth”.  It looked forward to engaging in debate at the international level on a social protection floor, believing that, if a mechanism was to be targeted at countries with little or no social protection, it was vital to account for their views.  Their awareness, support and engagement would be crucial.

Mr. RAKOVSKY (Russian Federation) said the adverse social impacts of the global economic crisis would be felt for at least a decade.  Excessive reliance on market mechanisms had caused great harm.  The crisis had highlighted the fact that, in an era of globalization, sustainable and harmonious development was only possible in societies in which wealth and development were shared equally.  The policy priorities for all countries emerging from crisis should be a real expansion of social rights.  Lowering social benchmarks could not be used as anti-crisis measures, since such approaches would hamper economic recovery and sustainable development.

The Russians Federation’s package of job stimulus measures included steps to:  increase unemployment benefits; provide cutting-edge professional training and job retraining; support start-ups; and create temporary work.  Government policy sought to focus special attention on the gender aspects of employment and to help balance work life and family life.

ROBERTO STORACI (Italy), aligning himself with the European Union, said last year Italy had spoken on the need for a comprehensive global approach to the crisis, through better rules and increased coordination among countries.  The ILO Global Jobs Pact had set an important set of “people first” principles that placed job support at the core of the world’s action to promote sustainable economic growth.  But, women around the world were particularly vulnerable in economic downturns, which was also true for Italy.  In 2009, the employment rate for women was lower than the European Union average and far below the 2010 target.  The gap between the employment rate of women without children and women with one child was 4.5 points; with two children approximately 10 points, and with three or more children as large as 22 points.  The rate of part-time female employment in Italy was also below the European Union average.  Female unemployment was lowest in the south.

Because a truly sustainable economic recovery could not happen without women’s contribution, he said Italy was making gender equality a top priority in the labour market.  There were still various degrees of discrimination against women in Italy, despite an extensive set of domestic laws and European Union regulations governing access to jobs, equal pay, protection of motherhood, parental leave, incentives for reconciliation of work and free time, and female entrepreneurship.  Women continued to earn less than men and were under-represented in decision-making positions.

He said one of the Government’s most urgent goals was to break the links among low female participation, women overburdened with housework, low birth rates, demographic imbalances in the workforce, and the social security system.  Italy’s 2020 Action Plan sought to expand assistance services for early infancy, reviewing grant criteria to facilitate family care by men; stimulate part-time and flexible work contracts; and increase women’s participation in non-traditional fields of employment, like energy and protecting the environment.  Among other things, parliament was considering tax deductions for women workers for every dependent child.  Incentives were also being created to promote the hiring of women with disabilities.  Greater prosperity and development could be achieved with greater inclusion and social justice.

HELEN HORSINGTON (Australia) said the consequences of the economic crisis worldwide continued to reverberate.  Ongoing economic instability continued to have serious implications for development.  By year’s end, more than 90 million people were expected to fall into poverty and the gender dimension of the economic crisis called for particular attention.  Economic recessions placed a disproportionate burden on women.  Women tended to work in export-oriented industries or as “casual” workers and were thus likely to lose their jobs before men.  Women had less access to social protection benefits.  The design and delivery of economic stimulus packages often did not take into account the economic impact of the crisis on those women.

Women’s participation in the labour market was also important for long-term economic security, she said.  Australia’s Government was working to promote women’s participation in the labour market in other countries.  For example, in Peru, it was working in partnership with the Interamerican Development Bank on a microfinance project that would support 100,000 women entrepreneurs.  All Governments should consider a gender perspective in policy responses to the financial and economic crisis.  In September 2009, G-20 leaders committed to strengthening support for preserving employment and fostering job growth.  G-20 leaders would meet in April to consider medium-term development and job skills policies, among other things.  G-20 leaders should ensure that all workers were able to advance in the science and technology fields.  Advances in those areas were important for recovering from the global recession.

MARTINA GASSER, a youth representative of Switzerland, noted that there were certain indications of economic recovery, but serious consequences remained for the most vulnerable people, including young people.  Youth unemployment had risen sharply compared to adults, by a rate of 13.4 per cent compared to 5 per cent.  Due to their lack of practical experience, it was more difficult for young people to find a place in the labour market.  But, another reason was that hardly any new jobs had been created.  The risk of redundancy was higher for young people than for workers with experience, and young people who remained unemployed for long periods were in greater danger of failing to reintegrate into the labour market.  In Switzerland, where youth unemployment stood at 54 per cent, the Government had approved short-term measures, such as funding jobs creation for young people, increasing the number of internships financed by the Confederation, and participating financially in training for apprentices unable to find work.  Collaborations were being encouraged between employers and worker associations to create more apprenticeships and trainee positions.

She said care must be taken, however, that such measures did not result in lower wages and poor working conditions for young people.  There was still a need for stable and secure long-term jobs.  Also, young people needed to be able to rely on a social security net that would prevent them from sliding into poverty and becoming socially marginalized.  To combat youth unemployment worldwide, it was important to support young people with subsidies and training programmes, and to actively assist them in their jobs search.  Young people were not responsible for the financial and economic crisis, and should not be made to suffer its consequences.  As such, she called on nations to prepare stabilization packages to stimulate the economy, to invest more in young people and to create job opportunities.  Transitional solutions were not enough.

ZHANG DAN (China) said social development in all countries, especially those in the developing world, had been seriously affected by the financial and economic crisis.  While the quick joint action of Governments and the international community had been able to produce some signs of recovery, such efforts had yet to really take hold and the deep-rooted structural problems that had sparked the crisis in the first place remained unaddressed.  Historical experience had shown that job market recovery lagged far behind economic rebounds, so the negative impact of the crisis on employment would continue.

Meanwhile, social expenditures of developing countries were stretched thin and would barely be able to meet the growing demand for social services.  “We should set our sights on the future while responding to the current situation,” she said, calling on Member States to take full advantage of developments as the crisis was winding down and to take integrated measures in the employment and social sectors to create the necessary conditions to point the global economy once again towards comprehensive and sustainable development.

Turning to China’s efforts to blunt the impact of the crisis at home, she said the Government had, among other things, taken measures at the macro level to secure growth and improve people’s welfare, and expedited the development of a basic social service system that covered all urban and rural residents.  The Government had also significantly scaled up investment in education, health care, affordable housing and social security.  She said the Government would continue to remain focused on improving people’s livelihoods and developing social programmes, as it sought to expand domestic demand and promote economic restructuring.

SEWON KIM (Republic of Korea) noted that the most marginalized people of society were the hardest hit by the economic crisis.  The role of Government assumed an even greater importance during times of crisis, in which it must provide adequate assistance to the most vulnerable.  During such times, the two goals of economic growth and equitable distribution of prosperity were complementary.  Spending on welfare should not be seen as a cost, but an investment for enhanced social integration.  The Republic of Korea had continued to increase its social and welfare budget, which now comprised 26 per cent of Government spending.  It was also providing social protection to the poor and underprivileged by expanding the social safety net to the low-income class.  Through the emergency welfare provision act, it had expanded eligibility for emergency welfare.  It was expanding health-care coverage in an effort to achieve universal health care.  Low-income people were exempted from paying health insurance premium payments, among other things.  Those not covered by a health plan could take advantage of a special medical aid programme.

To address employment insecurity, she said the Government had allocated an additional $25 billion to help retain jobs and expand employment opportunities in 2009.  It had expanded the “New Start” project for youth, which provided counselling, vocational training and job replacement services.  Through the “Hope Work” project, 250,000 people, mainly low income and unemployed youth, had been offered jobs.  Almost all those who lost their jobs in 2009 were women, whose participation in the job market had decreased between 2008 and 2009.  When coupled with a low birth rate and rapid ageing, that situation could harm national growth in the long term.  In response, the Government had established a plan to promote women’s employment, through which it would develop jobs for women, provide training to unemployed women, and create women-friendly jobs.  It would provide livelihood support, and would expand the scope of support for public childcare services provided by the public.  In addition, the Government was lending its full support to the ILO Global Jobs Pact and social protection floor initiative, and had announced plans to triple its support to that end from $1 billion to $3 billion by 2015.

MILOSLAVE HETTEŠ (Slovakia) said that globalization had offered new opportunities but also a risk of permanent social conflict between those who had a good education and employment thanks to globalization, and those with insufficient qualifications, who remained unemployed and excluded.  Social models existed in Europe that guaranteed high levels of social protection and social services that were vital for social cohesion.  Growth was not an objective in itself, but merely a tool for achieving the objective of attaining a sustainable and decent life for all.  To have such a financial system, a fundamental overhaul of the financial architecture, and the regulatory framework for financial markets and institutions, was needed.  “Otherwise, the seeds for the next crisis are sown.”

He said the response to that challenge should contribute to fair globalization, a greener economy and development that created jobs and sustainable enterprises, respected workers’ rights, promoted gender equality, protected vulnerable people, assisted countries in the provision of quality public services and enabled countries to attain the Millennium Development Goals.  Mitigating the impact of crises required social, economic and environmental policies that were coordinated and complementary.  Large-scale, internationally coordinated stimulus packages that were mutually reinforcing and consistent with sustainable development goals would be the key to counteracting the social consequences of the present crisis.  He fully supported the proposals for a Global Jobs Pact and the social protection floor initiative.

Ms. VALLE CAMINO (Cuba) said the global economic crisis had caused greater illiteracy and hunger among people already suffering, and it had deepened the socio-economic ills for millions of people.  It had inhibited social, economic and cultural rights, particularly of vulnerable groups such as women, immigrants and disabled persons.  Minorities were facing more intolerance and discrimination.  Developing countries were now in a much more vulnerable situation than before and had fewer resources to deal with the crisis.  Resolving the crisis required more resources, ongoing political will and international cooperation.  The global economy must be built on respect for the environment and improved living conditions.  It was a global crisis that required a global response.

Deep reform of the international financial architecture was necessary to allow developing countries to participate effectively in the global trade and financial system, she said.  Developed countries’ commitment to give 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product in official development assistance must be strengthened and given without conditionalities.  Emergency measures were needed to ease the situation of countries already mired in social ills.  They must be given short-term incentives, agricultural subsidies and food security.  Also, Cuba supported youth employment.  It encouraged nationwide studies to improve young people’s contribution to employment and provided them with scholarships.

AURELIO PARISOTTO, a representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said the world was suffering from a ruthless, prolonged jobs crisis.  “Whatever shape the recovery takes, the reality is that this crisis, if unattended, may leave deep scars on our societies, depriving the vulnerable segments of the population of the opportunities to develop their human capital and their productive capacities for years to come,” he said.  The ILO was making its best effort to monitor and assess the implications of the financial crisis on the labour market, the poor and the disadvantaged.  But, the lack of high frequency labour market statistics in poor countries made that task daunting.  Estimates showed that the total number of unemployed in the world may have reached well over 200 million, with a sharp increase in 2009.  A similar number of workers were at risk of falling below the poverty line.

Harsh pressures on wages, shrinking work hours, more informal job arrangements and reverse migration were particularly impacting the earnings of poor households in urban and rural settings, he said.  Unemployment was likely to increase in 2011, particularly in developed economies, despite signs of recovery.  The increase in youth unemployment was of particular concern.  Job creation measures that targeted the 45 million young men and women joining the labour force annually were a priority.

The ILO was working with international partners to find solutions, he said.  At the request of the G-20, the ILO had conducted an inventory of employment and social protection measures adopted in about 50 countries.  It was studying good practices.  “Policy does make a difference,” he said.  Countercyclical measures were critical for weathering the global economic storm and they had helped generate up to 11 million jobs, buffering social distress and helping restore some degree of economic confidence.  Investment in infrastructure that clinched labour intensive methods significantly created jobs, as well as fostered innovation and new industries.

Countries with established social protection system or safety net schemes that could be scaled up rapidly had been better able to cushion the effect of crises on vulnerable groups, he said.  Transfer programmes in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, India and Bangladesh were good examples of that.  In Bangladesh, programmes put in place to counter the food crisis facilitated a swift response once the recession arrived.   Such programmes served as automatic stabilizers and, in some cases, they restrained rural-urban migration by supporting workers in rural areas, where most of the poor lived.  “There will be no economic recovery without a jobs recovery,” he said.  The ILO was promoting the Global Jobs Pact.  Many of the policies advocated in the Pact were already in place, but they needed strengthening.  The ILO was helping countries implement the Pact.

LILA HANITRA RATSIFANDRIHAMANANA, of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said the financial crisis, which overlapped with the food crisis, had reduced employment opportunities for the developing poor and restricted their access to food.  They were less able to acquire food, because prices had not fallen at the same pace as international prices.  In September 2009, domestic staples in developing countries were costing 20 per cent more than compared to two years ago.  Participants at the World Food Summit in November 2009 had addressed the negative impact of the food, economic and financial crises on world food security.  They agreed that investment in food production should not be reduced, and recommended various actions to address accessibility, create early warning systems, develop a food safety net and move from emergency relief support to long-term development.

She said the FAO believed it important to consider gender issues in efforts to foster greater social integration.  Female-headed households were disproportionately affected by the economic crisis.  Rural women made up a majority of the world’s poor, even if their contribution to the economy was vast.  Unfortunately, their contribution was monetarily invisible, since very few women enjoyed land ownership, had access to financial services, or enjoyed the benefits of skills training.  Gender inequality compromised women’s access to labour and their capacity to react to external shocks.  Past and recent crises had demonstrated that, in crisis periods, women tended to bear the brunt.  An FAO analysis showed that welfare losses related to increased food prices in 2007 and 2008 were not equally distributed among male and female households.  States needed more policies to facilitate women’s participation in non-vulnerable paid employment and to provide them access to markets.  They also needed access to labour-saving technology to help reduce their burdens; an increased role in rural organizations; and channels needed to be developed to inform them about their rights and opportunities.

CECILE GOLDEN, a representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said the agency’s 2008-2010 medium-term strategy accorded priority to Africa and gender equality.  Specific targeted action was envisaged for youth, the least developed countries and small island developing States.  UNESCO would further respond to the needs of disadvantaged and excluded groups, as well as the most vulnerable segments of society.  In the context of the economic crisis, it was particularly important that education systems equipped students with the necessary skills to be competitive in the labour market.  UNESCO’s consultations with youth revealed a strong sense of frustration over the need for closer ties between education planning and skills development and job training to ensure young people were well prepared to enter the labour force.

UNESCO’s education programmes focused on, among other things, technical and vocational education and training, she said.  It helped learners acquire the skills, knowledge and attitudes needed to develop professional careers, as well as promote active citizenship and lifelong learning.  UNESCO was dedicated to advancing learning opportunities for disadvantaged groups, particularly women and youth.  That was particularly important in the context of the economic crisis, in which alarming unemployment rates had been reported in far too many countries.  UNESCO fully supported the Social Protection Floor Initiative led by the ILO and the World Health Organization (WHO) and helped in its development.

Ms. ADABA, International Trade Union Confederation, representing 160 million women and men workers organized in 150 countries, said the proposed stimulus packages in responses to the economic crisis had been inadequate.  At the General Assembly Conference on the economic crisis, the Confederation pointed out that there was a net outflow from developing to developed countries in response to the crisis, prompted by the need to inject capital into developed countries.  States were currently attempting to create an enabling environment to allow for strong employment response, but the finances in developing countries to carry out that goal were severely lacking.  Many had hoped for a new “Bretton Woods moment”, focused on reforming the system to create re-distribution mechanisms to foster recovery and encourage shared prosperity.  Without such reforms, it would be difficult to create enough capital for development and for “putting people first”.

She said there needed to be a significant shift in terms of reforming international financial institutions, in order to eliminate policies of conditionality, as well as policies that had the potential of increasing the debt burdens of poor countries and could cause a new debt crisis.  New regulations were needed over tax havens, hedge funds, and so on, so that funds accumulating in the financial market could be spread to developing countries to allow for their growth.  The Confederation had pled in the past for development-centred policies, such as the ILO Global Jobs Pact.  It had pushed for the Pact to be accepted, and welcomed the fact that it was being taken on board by States in their plans.  So far, the ILO had been invited to work on skills development by the G-20, which was a welcome development.  The initiative on the social protection floor was likewise important, but another instrument adopted by the ILO in 1998, a resolution on gender equality at the heart of decent work, was also important.  It sought to address the job crisis through a “life cycle approach” that took on a gender dimension.  The Confederation believed that a “trilogy” of policies was needed:  the ILO Global Jobs Pact, a social protection floor initiative and placing gender at heart of decent work, which was currently missing from the picture.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.