About the G7 and G8 Research Group
G8 Labour and Employment Ministers
April 26 to 27, 2002
Labour and Employment Ministers from the G8 countries, and the Employment Commissioner of the EC, met in Montréal, Canada on April 26-27, 2002, together with representatives from the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), to discuss the skills and learning challenges of the 21st Century. In preparation for the meeting a consultation with representatives of social partners on the themes of the Conference was held on April 25, 2002.
We agreed that public policy plays a key role in establishing a macro-economic environment that stimulates and supports sustainable economic growth and employment. Structural reforms are needed to sustain recovery and support strengthened productivity growth in our economies. Though uncertainty remains part of the global outlook, it is clear that in most industrialized nations the economic and the social fundamentals are securely in place, and growth prospects are positive.
We agreed on the need to implement measures to address both short-term economic fluctuations as well as long-term structural shifts. While the recent cyclical downturn with its consequent loss of jobs will be followed by job growth and opportunity, the new jobs will likely not be the same as those lost. The knowledge economy requires higher levels of skill and adaptability. Technological advances demand higher skills at an accelerating pace. Long-term structural shifts mean that today, more than ever, a knowledgeable and skillful workforce is key to economic growth, increased productivity, global competitiveness and social progress. Moreover, finding and keeping a job provides the best avenue out of poverty for many.
More and better jobs for our people, improving employability and adaptability, and removing obstacles, including all forms of discrimination, and disincentives to taking up or remaining in a job, continue to be key concerns of the G8. Achieving these objectives demands interaction between social partners and public authorities, ensuring a good balance between the flexibility of work organization and security for workers, identification of good employment practices and progress on lifelong learning and gender equality.
Enabling all workers to find their place in the labour market is a major component of economic and social response to structural change. Maximizing the contribution of all potential labour force participants is not only a necessity, in view of looming demographic changes, but will also contribute to social stability and cohesion. The discussion on skills and learning is part of a larger discussion on the opportunities, social consequences and challenges of globalization, as well as the future and quality of work.
Governments, in active partnership with social partners, education and training institutions, and other stakeholders, have a key role to play in investing in people, particularly those who are disadvantaged. We recognize the critical role knowledge plays in personal and national productivity and success, and in fostering social cohesion and inclusion. To succeed in the 21st Century, citizens must have the skills, knowledge and access to labour market opportunities they need to maximize their full economic and social potential. Investments in the skills and learning capacity of people are therefore amongst the most effective investments government and society can make.
We believe that investments in skills and learning must be made throughout life. The need to do so is urgent: demographic shifts mean fewer new labour market entrants in the future, as a significant percentage of the workers of 2015 are already in the labour force. Strategies must therefore look to the skills and learning needs not only of the future, but also of the current workforce. Strategies adopted to address the immediate skill needs of the current workforce will support our long-term strategies for the future workforce.
Our discussions centred on three interrelated and reinforcing themes – increasing participation in the labour force and promoting an inclusive society; promoting lifelong learning; and increasing opportunity.
Increasing Participation in the Labour Force and Promoting an Inclusive Society
Present levels of unemployment and inactivity represent both a tremendous waste of existing human resources and, because of demographic change, an essential source of future productive employment. Active labour market measures and policies to make work pay are vitally important for bringing the unemployed and those not participating in the labour market into work.
Investment in people is also key to increasing employment participation and promoting an inclusive society. In particular, groups typically disadvantaged in the labour market need expanded access to learning and labour market opportunity. These groups can contribute to and benefit from sustainable economic growth. They can expand the skilled labour pool available to employers and help avert labour shortages. We agree on the need to provide for effective pathways and support tailored to their needs, including labour market information and job counseling, to further their economic and social integration.
We particularly recognize the need to enable older workers to keep and get jobs. We renew our commitment to measures outlined in the Turin Charter on Active Ageing, and further encourage business and labour to work together to respond to the needs and choices of older workers, with an emphasis on learning opportunities and working conditions, including work organization and environment.
In access to employment, career advancement, and earnings and in reconciling professional and family life, we reaffirm our commitment to promote gender equality and participation of women. We also agree to promote and develop policies which enable those with family responsibilities to remain employed, or to re-enter the labour market while respecting a work-family balance.
Promoting Lifelong Learning: Focussing on Adult Learners
In the knowledge economy, it is not enough to have a sound initial education. Learning must be a lifelong pursuit. As the Turin Charter notes, citizens of G8 countries must move beyond the conventional concept of a three-stage lifecycle of education, employment and retirement towards a dynamic lifecycle approach where lifelong learning, skills and knowledge, and professional career development are actively interlinked.
This shift to lifelong learning has implications for individuals, employers and traditional learning institutions. Learning systems are reaching an increasingly diverse body of students at more stages of life in more places. Learning systems must also become adept at accommodating multiple transitions between learning and work, and better serve the needs of workers for realizing their own career plans.
For the workforce of tomorrow, societies will need to ensure that sound basic skills are acquired at an early age. To promote a smooth transition from school to work, youth should be encouraged to engage in practical work experience or vocational training. This enables them to build their careers while developing skills they will require in the future. It is also important to maintain the motivation to learn throughout life.
For the workforce of today, it means learning systems must accommodate adult workers. We reaffirm the Köln Charter's commitment to adult skill acquisition that enjoys appropriate public or employer support, accommodates family needs and affords ready opportunities to upgrade skills throughout life. In addition, we strongly encourage policies that can result in significantly increased levels of adult learning.
We recognize the need to better accommodate learning motivations, in particular among adult workers who are not well-served by current systems – the unemployed, the low-skilled, individuals who are employed on a part-time or casual basis or in new forms of work arrangements – and to design and implement effective incentives. We can explore ways of better understanding how to encourage individuals and families to invest in themselves through continued learning.
We agree to promote innovations in learning, such as e-learning, which have the potential to transform and improve access to learning opportunities, and provide new means for learner-centred approaches.
We agree that the scope of the life long learning challenge is much broader than government responsibility alone. An effective and concerted partnership including governments, organized labour, business, communities, learning institutions, families and individuals is critical to ensure access to, and quality of, education and training. To that end, in the near term:
Employers have much to gain by investing in workforce skills development in terms of enhanced productivity and capacity to innovate. Therefore, we should encourage removing impediments to learning in the workplace, and encourage employers to build partnerships with learning institutions. We recognize the special challenges small- and medium- sized enterprises face in this regard.
Enterprises that invest in workforce skill development promote workers' motivation and satisfaction, and thereby increase firms' efficiency and productivity. Consistent with the concept of corporate social responsibility, employers could in particular facilitate lifelong learning for those workers who are low skilled or more exposed to exclusion from the labour market.
We invite all partners to work with us on labour force development and lifelong learning.
Government policies should increase learning and labour market opportunity,, for those already in the labour market,, and for those who need support to access the labour market.
We recognize the particular role government can play in reducing financial and structural barriers to learning. We agree to review and recommend, where appropriate, financial mechanisms to support lifelong learning.
Government has a responsibility to gather and disseminate good labour market information (LMI), to inform decisions to pursue or support learning. LMI can illustrate the benefits that accrue from learning, creating incentives for individual and employer participation. LMI and career counseling can enable learners to anticipate and respond to emerging skills demands and employers' expectations, thereby addressing issues of supply and demand, and speeding labour market adjustment. To that extent, we agree that the international exchange of sources of information and experiences could be a useful tool to enable governments to plan for the needs of future labour markets.
Recognition of skills and credentials promotes labour market efficiency by enabling workers to apply the full range of their skills in productive employment, while easing entry into further opportunities for employment and learning.
We agree to continue efforts to implement transparent mechanisms to assess and recognize all skills and credentials, including the accreditation of prior learning, whether acquired formally or informally, or in another jurisdiction. The key consideration should be the ability to do the job in the context of the local labour market. Assessment could seek to measure soft skills required in the knowledge-based economy, such as adaptability, problem-solving abilities, and creativity. Emphasis must be placed on developing methods to more effectively assess informal training.
We recognize the useful contribution to our discussions by the OECD and the ILO, and we encourage them to work together on the issues of recognition of skills and credentials, and lifelong learning, including disseminating information referred to in paragraph 25.
Summary and Conclusions
Increasing the number of people in productive employment is crucial to meeting major challenges of the 21st Century: eradicating poverty, responding to the demographic transformation, and advancing in the knowledge-based economy and society.
By promoting the availability and attractiveness of work, increasing investment in learning and skills development, getting the financial incentives right, and supporting a balance between work and family responsibilities, work for all could become a real option.
Investments in the skills of the workforce and lifelong learning are vital to economic and social development. A successful skills and learning strategy must address both short- and long-term economic and social goals.
Success in meeting these learning challenges requires coordinated effort and joint initiatives by governments, employers, education and training institutions, organized labour and individuals themselves. As a priority, efforts should be made to:
We welcome the offer by Germany to host the next meeting of G8 Labour and Employment Ministers in 2003.
Source: G8 Labour and Employment Ministers Conference (Canada)
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