Amid Widening Divisions, Labour Market Shifts, People-Centred Policies Guided by Social Justice Essential, Secretary-General Tells World of Work Summit

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the World of Work Summit, in Geneva today:

ILO Director-General [Gilbert F.] Houngbo, distinguished representatives, excellencies, dear friends, I send my warmest greetings to the World of Work Summit and the International Labour Organization (ILO.

Work is central to our economies and our lives, but, as you have highlighted so effectively, the world of work is changing at warp speed. Societies and economies are still reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Poverty, hunger and inequalities are rising; the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are on life support. 

The climate crisis, conflict and humanitarian emergencies are uprooting and disrupting the education and working lives of hundreds of millions of people.  Divisions are widening, hatred and discrimination are rampant, women rights are under attack and people are losing trust in the institutions that represent them.

The fourth industrial revolution is unfolding against this chaotic backdrop.  We cannot predict its results — but we already know the outlines of the seismic shift that is under way:  Greater automation; the digital transition; a shift towards renewables; sustainable production; and a need for quality education, reskilling and retraining.  Jobs will be lost in some areas and created in others.  But they will require different skills.

We must prepare now, to avoid even greater divisions, injustice and mistrust.  The ILO has been at the forefront of laying out a road map to navigate the transitions to a sustainable and just future of work.  The foundation of that road must be social justice.

I thank Director-General Houngbo and all of you for working to mobilize a Global Coalition for Social Justice.  I see such a coalition as a crucial force to help advance the Sustainable Development Goals and meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. 

At its heart, this effort is about rebuilding the social contract through people-centred policies grounded and guided by social justice.  The social contract must have women and young people at the centre and encompass equal opportunities for all; access to essential services; lifelong education and training; decent jobs; and social protection.

The Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection is our platform to coordinate global financing for hundreds of millions of new jobs, and to extend social protection to the 4 billion people who are without coverage.

I look forward to the outcome of your discussions, which will inform the SDG Summit in September, the Summit of the Future in 2024 and the World Social Summit in 2025.

The world is at a decisive moment.  Today’s policies on climate, on threats to global security, on social solidarity and more will shape our future and that of our children and grandchildren.  The World of Work Summit is an opportunity to explore solutions that will make that future more just, equitable, sustainable and inclusive.

Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.