Decent Work Agenda Global Imperative – PM


Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has said that the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Decent Work Agenda has become an essential feature of strategies for balancing economic and social development, and is a global imperative. “Decent work for all is a great principle and a great ideal. It is essential to achieving social justice, prosperity and a better quality of life for all people everywhere,” Mrs. Simpson Miller stated. She was addressing the 96th Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland today (June 12).
The Prime Minister said that realisation of the Decent Work Agenda should begin with the clear conviction that people must be at the centre of national development and in order to achieve this, the agenda must embrace justice and equity.
“It is my firm belief that these qualities must form the moral compass that guides our attitudes and actions. They must be reflected in labour relations, community development, public and private sector partnerships and relations with our global neighbours. However, for lasting success at the national level, the principles of justice and equity must also apply to international relations and rules,” she asserted.
Mrs. Simpson Miller said international rules need to ensure that all countries, no matter how small, have economic and trade opportunities that are fair and just, as this will support decent work and stimulate development at the national level.
She cited training, job creation and employability, sustainable business enterprises and social protection as critical imperatives for balancing economic and social development, within the context of the decent work agenda.
“Unquestionably, education is the driving force for the transformation that must take place, if developing economies are to achieve global economic competitiveness and improve the quality of life for their people,” she stated.
The Prime Minister added that such a programme of education, “must embrace technical and professional skills training that will prepare our people to do dignified and productive work locally, regionally and internationally. This is the path Jamaica has embarked on.” She told the conference that while transforming the education system, the Jamaican Government was giving priority to early childhood education. In the area of job creation and employability, she said economic activity must drive the creation of jobs, as “jobless growth is not a viable option.” Mrs. Simpson Miller said the government has placed economic growth with jobs at the heart of its economic plan and as a consequence, the country was experiencing the lowest rate of unemployment in recent history. “Under the theme: ‘Today’s Jamaica means business,’ we pursue financial investments that will make a significant contribution to poverty reduction, while providing a fair return on investments. We will ensure that these investments are in conformity with the decent work agenda. In Jamaica, we vigorously and consistently promote working conditions that are above the core labour standards,” she assured.
The Prime Minister noted that another area of job opportunities for Jamaicans was migration, although Jamaica, like other developing countries, faced challenges with the free movement of skills. “While there are opportunities to be derived from migration, our countries also face the negative impacts. We must explore strategies such as bilateral agreements with host countries investing in the training of sufficient number of our people, so that they can recruit without leaving a skills deficit,” she said.
Mrs. Simpson Miller noted that over the years, Jamaica has established successful bilateral programmes for farm workers and workers in the hospitality industry. “With this experience, similar initiatives should be considered for other categories of workers. Within this job creation and employability imperative, it is essential that special attention be given to the youth,” she said. One new aspect of the approach to youth employment in Jamaica was capitalizing on the abundance of talent and interests of the young people, she informed. “We intend to focus attention on generating job opportunities in the cultural and creative industries, which include music, sport and entertainment,” she pointed out.
Mrs. Simpson Miller said the building of sustainable businesses were important for providing decent and productive work and that they also helped to generate the financial support needed for social development. “The reality in many developing countries is that the size of the labour force is outstripping growth of employment in the formal economy. As a result, the informal economy is accounting for a larger segment of the workforce. The informal economy, made up mainly of women and persons from disadvantaged groups, is to contribute to the decent work objectives,” she said.
To do so, the Prime Minister said, greater emphasis and a sense of urgency must be directed at structuring this expanding area of economic activity into sustainable business enterprises. She cited last year’s decision to provide significant financial support to the micro, small and medium sized enterprises. “It is our intention that this initiative will serve as a catalyst for encouraging more private sector investment and participation in micro and small business enterprises,” she remarked.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Simpson Miller pointed out that strategies for social protection must balance the needs for proper housing, health care and basic amenities, with an ability to respond to emergencies. “These emergencies include unpredictable shocks in the economy and natural disasters,” she said, noting the implementation of the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) in Jamaica.
“It provides thousands of families with social protection benefits linked to education and health,” she explained. The Prime Minister also mentioned the recent removal of all health fees for persons under 18 years, who use hospitals and health facilities which fall under the Ministry of Health, and the implementation of low income housing programmes with special emphasis on the shelter needs of the urban poor and workers in the sugar and hospitality industries, as part of the social protection policy.
Among the topics on the agenda for the conference, which ends on June 15, are: decent work, child labour in agriculture, work in the fishing sector, equality at work, forced labour, and sustainable enterprises.

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