Labor Ministers Conference
Turin, Italy, November 10-11, 2000
Labour Ministers from the G8 countries and the Employment Commissioner of the EC met in Turin, Italy, on 10-11 November 2000, together with representatives from the ILO and OECD, and representatives of social partners, to discuss the themes of the knowledge based economy and labour market policy, ageing society, social inclusion and sharing prosperity in a globalized world.
In preparation of the meeting a formal consultation with representatives of social partners on the themes of the Conference was held on 9 November 2000.
Building upon and strengthening the favourable macroeconomic environment
Employment is benefiting from macroeconomic conditions which appear relatively bright. The stubbornly high unemployment rates, which had prevailed in many countries during the nineties, have begun to decline with no generalised risks of overheating. Good macroeconomic performance is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to address unemployment. We emphasize the importance of fully reaping the benefits of integrated employment strategies, including the need to maximize the contribution of economic, social and environmental policies to employment growth.
4. We are optimistic about the future: employment and GDP growth prospects in our countries and the world economy are likely to remain favourable also over the medium term. In order to consolidate the favourable economic prospects, it is of utmost importance to maintain a stable and growth oriented framework. Governments have at their disposal a variety of macroeconomic tools to set the right climate for growth and prosperity. These include an efficient and effective tax system and a balanced approach to monetary and fiscal policy. At the same time, we invite social partners to undertake all the necessary steps to support such a growth and stability oriented framework and we commit ourselves to further address labour and skill shortages.
Knowledge based economy and labour market policies
5. The globalization of markets, the rapid introduction and adoption of new technologies and the rising skill requirements of virtually all jobs, make a skilled and adaptable workforce key to a country's competitiveness and to the well-being of its citizens.
6. Full employment in a knowledge-based society is our overarching goal. To this purpose, we stress the need to continue structural reforms to improve the conditions for a strong, lasting and non inflationary growth path. The current favourable macroeconomic environment provides an opportunity to continue to undertake these structural reforms because it lowers the transition costs and increases the social and economic benefits associated with moving to more efficient labour markets and supports continued economic growth. However, we emphasize the importance to have a comprehensive approach to structural reforms, encompassing labour, capital and product markets. The interactions of reforms in these different areas enhance the job creation process, especially taking into account the characteristics of the emerging knowledge-based economy.
7. Economic performance and social inclusion are mutually reinforcing. It is essential that the interrelatedness of social and economic goals be reflected in the design of coherent employment and social policies.
8. We recognize that in societies increasingly based on knowledge, lifelong learning has become a crucial element of employment policy with both social and economic benefits. Investing in the knowledge and learning capabilities of people and promoting equal access of women and men to skill acquisition is extremely important to fully reap the benefits of the new technologies and to avoid skill shortages. We are also aware that the cumulative nature of knowledge risks putting at disadvantage certain segments of society, such as lone parents, people with disabilities, ageing workers and the long-term unemployed. We therefore commit ourselves to implement policies in line with the Cologne charter on "Aims and Ambitions for Lifelong Learning" as agreed by G8 leaders, stressing the need to ensure equal access for all to new technologies and to the related development of skills.
9. The knowledge based economy requires adaptability, firstly by work organisations, but also by the labour force and public policy. The education and training systems have to support these processes aiming at maintaining and enriching the skills of workers, putting a particular emphasis on the need to re-qualify older workers. While some measures suited to these needs have been already implemented, we need to further strengthen these policies. Social partners should be invited to play an active role in this area. Engaging business and labour in the development of a highly-skilled workforce is key to supporting the growth of productive employment opportunities and to attaining sustained employment growth.
10. New forms of work arrangements may enable businesses to adapt and become more competitive and workers to adapt to change. They can also enable employees to balance the demands of family and working life. However, we are aware that the rise of these new forms of work arrangements may, in some cases, increase risks of insecurity and contribute to a weakening in labour protection and an increase in inequality. Recognising that, where appropriate, government, trade unions and employers need to ensure through dialogue at all levels that more flexible work arrangements are combined with security and with equal access to training and career development for employees, and with attention to issues such as family-friendly policies and work-life balance. Existing social security programs may need also to be reviewed in order to adapt eligibility rule and strengthen proper economic incentives, while maintaining the financial viability of the programs.
Policies for a socially inclusive society
11. We recognize that, while the knowledge based society creates enormous opportunities, if too many people are excluded from the fruits of economic growth or the benefits of learning, there is a risk of eroding social cohesion as well as the conditions for sustainable social and economic development. We are also working to maximize the potential of our economies by providing access to opportunity for our increasingly diverse workforces. In addition, we share the goal of a broadly-shared prosperity, and this means assuring work pays and that issues of income inequality are effectively addressed.
12. Enabling individuals to obtain and maintain productive, valued employment is key to enhancing social inclusion. Thus, we support the reform efforts carried out in many countries to incorporate a proactive approach to welfare, as a way to promote social inclusion while increasing effective labour supply. Social safety nets and income support policies still have a role to play in addressing the needs of those unable to participate in the work force. However, further steps have to be undertaken in implementing active labour market policies and removing barriers to labour market participation. Good examples of such a strategy are measures that facilitate the matching process between job-seekers and firms, literacy and training programs, policies and programs which promote equality, including gender equality, and the elimination of discrimination in the labour market, policies that make work pay for workers with relatively low earnings capacity, and other incentives for at risk -- and sometimes discriminated against - groups. In this context, actions to strengthen the social economy such as non-profit and voluntary sector might be pursued. Efficient measures to improve in-work income should be supported as an instrument to prevent the phenomenon of working poor.
13. In order to tackle poverty, we are also aware of the need to have a comprehensive approach with clear policy objectives and a range of initiatives to ensure we help individuals, families, and communities. Social measures should also enable individuals, families and communities to have the tools to address their own needs. However, social measures should be balanced with work incentives and actions to support human capital investment and labour market attachment in order to achieve social inclusion, equal opportunities and sustained economic growth.
Interaction of policies at regional level
14. Localities and regions vary with respect to structural conditions, which may make them disadvantaged and therefore may make it difficult for social and labour policies to be effective. Despite appropriately tailored active labour market measures, individuals may be caught, in particular areas, in situations where a vicious circle of low growth, low investment and low attachment of individuals to the labour market may persist. We believe that to avoid the risk of these local and regional high unemployment traps, a comprehensive approach in which labour market and developmental policies interact should be adopted. This would include integrating, where necessary, standard social and labour market policies with appropriate measures aiming at improving infrastructures and general economic conditions. Where necessary, measures have to be differentiated at the territorial level, bearing in mind that these strategies have to be consistent with national objectives and equity concerns.
15. Given the dramatic ageing of the population, we agree that particular attention should be paid to the challenges this presents. A comprehensive approach has to be adopted that provides for opportunities and incentives for the active involvement of all generations, both in economic activities and in society as a whole. This is particularly important for older persons who wish to be active and whose abilities are not always fully utilised. A policy of active ageing would also strengthen the financial sustainability of our pension systems and other social security programmes. We strongly support the G8 Leaders' statement at Okinawa on this issue and commit ourselves to pursuing the goals and policies outlined in the Turin Charter on an Active Ageing Society, which we submit for consideration to the G8 Leaders at the Genoa Summit next year.
Sharing prosperity in a globalized world
16. We support all the possible efforts in spreading economic growth to developing countries so that prosperity and democracy can be shared by as many people as possible. In the context of a multifaceted strategy, we support the initiatives aimed at improving market access for developing countries and managing foreign debt along the lines of the enhanced Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative and with direct connections to poverty reduction strategies.
We also agree that we should sustain policies designed to:
encourage investments in social sectors such as health and education, so as to improve the general well-being of individuals, increase human capital and enhance access to the opportunities offered by new technologies,
improve and broaden social protection networks, which can also help to cushion against the effects of financial instability,
enhance respect for core labour standards, to maximise the number of those who benefit from the globalisation process, and to ensure equitable and broadly-based distribution of the fruits of economic development.
We are concerned about the digital divide both within the G-8 economies and societies as well as between the developing and developed countries. Broadening access to information and communication technology and training in new skills and technologies needs to be a key component in our overall strategy for growth, employment and social inclusion and in all efforts to share the benefits of prosperity between developed and developing countries.
17. To help sharing prosperity in a globalized world, we stress the importance that core labour standards are respected wherever a person works. We reiterate the statements made at the Washington G8 Labour Ministers Conference, where we committed ourselves to work with and in the ILO to ensure that it has the ability and resources it needs to fully promote the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the 1999 Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. We reiterate the conclusions of the Okinawa summit welcoming the increasing cooperation between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) in promoting adequate social protection and core labour standards; urging the IFIs to incorporate these standards into their policy dialogue with member countries; and, in addition, stressing the importance of effective cooperation between the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the ILO on the social dimensions of globalization and trade liberalization.
18. We affirm our support for the newly reviewed OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and we encourage enterprises to implement them as a positive contribution to improving economic, social and environmental goals.
19. We consider it important to improve the exchange of information on different national experiences, with a view to learning from each other and identifying best practices. We fully support and welcome the ongoing efforts of the G-8 partners to deepen the comparative analysis of employment and social polices including the co-ordination efforts pursued by the European Union. We also encourage the OECD and the ILO to continue their valuable work on employment and related social issues. Moreover, to promote policy coherence among international organizations and avoid duplication of research efforts, we strongly encourage both the OECD and the ILO to share their knowledge and expertise related to the development of effective policies, their implementation and evaluation, and the dissemination of information.
20. We express the wish that the employment and social issues and policy suggestions addressed in this Conference will be supported by the G8 Leaders at the Genoa summit next year.
21. We also welcome Canada's offer to host the next meeting of G8 labour and employment Ministers.