Oslo conference calls for action
*Spotlight on human costs of around 210 million unemployed across
*Solutions seen in job-focused policy response, job training, social
*Global crisis not over until unemployment starts falling
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou speaks at a panel debate
on September 13, 2010 during the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
- International Labor Organization (ILO) conference in Oslo.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Dominique Strauss-Kahn (R) and
Norway’s Finance Minister Sigbjoern Johnsen answer questions
during a press conference as part of the IMF-International
Labour Organisation (ILO) conference in Oslo
The global recession has created a “wasteland of unemployment” that
is likely to leave scars on society for years to come, unless action is
taken to address the jobs crisis, IMF Managing Director Dominique
The heads of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the
International Labour Organization (ILO), along with other leaders,
called September 13 for a broad international commitment to a
jobs-focused policy response to the global economic downturn.
At a historic conference in Oslo - hosted by Prime Minister Jens
Stoltenberg of Norway and co-sponsored by the IMF and ILO - leaders from
Government, labour, business and academia met to tackle the sharp
increase in unemployment and underemployment since the global financial
“The crisis of unemployment is the worst one facing the world right
now,” said Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
“The rules of the game have changed,” Strauss-Kahn said in his
“The global economy after the crisis is not the same as before the
crisis. So, in a nutshell, we need to think differently.
Why? Because the future of millions of people is at stake. Because
the future of our world - prosperity and peace - is at stake.”
“We need to humanize this global economy,” Prime Minister George
Papandreou of Greece told a news conference.
The conference brought together senior Government leaders, including
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.
A large delegation of labour leaders was led by International Trade
Union Confederation General Secretary Sharan Burrow. Speakers also
included Finance Minister Christine Lagarde of France and UK Secretary
of State for Labour Iain Duncan Smith.
Strauss-Kahn said he hoped the conference would identify a new way to
think about what the planet can do, together, to build a better world.
“If successful, maybe in four or five years time, we will be able to say
“I was in Oslo” where it all began.”
Lagarde said the world needed a “job-charged” recovery that continued
coordination between major economies through the Group of Twenty.
Sirleaf warned of the destabilizing effects of large-scale
unemployment in fragile developing countries, saying social cohesion in
Liberia could be damaged.
“When growth is not fair, it becomes unsustainable,” said ILO
Director-General Juan Somavia. “This has been the overriding lesson of
the crisis. High levels of employment creation should be a key
macroeconomic objective alongside low inflation and sustainable budgets.
We need to steer globalization in the right direction.”
Human costs the real tragedy
Strauss-Kahn spoke of the damaging effects of the crisis. “Today, as
you know, the labour market is in dire straits.
The Great Recession has left behind a wasteland of unemployment, and
this devastation threatens the livelihood, security, and dignity of
millions of people across the world,” Strauss-Kahn said in his opening
But he said the human costs of the crisis were the real tragedy,
especially for young people.
“The crisis hit them especially hard. We must not underestimate the
daunting prospect we face: a lost generation, disconnected from the
labor market, with a progressive loss of skills and motivation.”
And unemployment left long-lasting scars. “If you lose your job,”
Strauss-Kahn added, “you are more likely to suffer from health problems,
or even die younger. If you lose your job, your children are likely to
do worse in school. If you lose your job, you are less likely to have
faith in public institutions and democracy.’
Youth (ages 15–24) currently represent one-quarter of the world’s
labor force, at 619 million. Despite a number of years of rapid economic
growth, youth unemployment has remained stubbornly high, rising to 13
percent in 2009, or 81 million.
Putting millions back to work
Strauss-Kahn said the gathering had helped to define the steps that
must be taken to bring millions back into the workforce. “Tackling the
jobs crisis is not only critical for a meaningful global economic
recovery, but also for social cohesion and peace,” he said.
The IMF and ILO agreed at the conference to work together on policy
development in two specific areas:
* First, they agreed to explore the concept of a social protection
floor for people living in poverty and in vulnerable situations, within
the context of a medium - to long-term framework of sustainable
macroeconomic policies and strategies for development.
* Second, the two institutions will focus on policies to promote
There was also agreement on the central role that effective social
dialogue can play in building the consensus needed to tackle the
difficult adjustment challenges created by the crisis, and to ensure
that the social consequences of crisis and its aftermath are taken fully
Speakers pointed to the key roles of social protection and the need
for increased job creation to help those who could not find work. But
Duncan Smith said it was also important to re-examine the retirement
age, which in many cases was now too early.
Strauss-Kahn said it was the first time that the IMF and ILO had
worked together in this way. The two organizations sometimes had
different points of view but had the same goal: to build a better world
Speakers emphasized that the global crisis would not be over until
unemployment decreases. “We must not expect that growth alone will
automatically create the jobs we need—and set job creation as priority
using all the available policy tools. We need to make the financial
system an effective support of the real economy. We need to take
advantage of the cooperation between the IMF and ILO to boost
international cooperation,” Strauss-Kahn said.
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