18 May 09 - Symposium highlights concern about jobs
Economic stimulus packages in response to global financial turmoil shouldn´t focus only on banks and other institutions "too large to fail," but on providing jobs, speakers said at UNCTAD´s public symposium on the world economic crisis.
Rising unemployment is where the global financial crisis hits home, UNCTAD´s public symposium on the worldwide recession was told repeatedly.
Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Office (ILO), said at the opening session of the two-day meeting that ILO has advocated a "global jobs pact" to face the unemployment issue and work in concert with economic stimulus packages. Jobs or lack of them are where ordinary people interact with the global economy, Mr. Somavia said: unemployment worldwide grew by 14 million in 2008 and at this point probably has grown by 50 million.
He was followed by Guy Ryder, Secretary-General of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), who said the mood among trade unionists "is of anger and fear. Anyone who doesn´t take seriously the danger of social instability is missing the point. The feelings of injustice out there are not misplaced. There are very real and genuine reasons for people to be angry. They fear, they feel, they know that they are the innocent bystanders in a crisis they have done nothing to create."
The morning plenary was followed by a lunchtime debate on "the global jobs crisis" at which one speaker from the floor said that a number of Western governments have recently become "bankers of last resort," rescuing large banks and assuming their debts. Could not governments also take the same approach to employment, he asked, by becoming "employers of last resort" and committing extensive public funds to providing jobs?
Duncan Campbell, Director of the Economic and Labour Market Analysis Department of the ILO, told the session that progress is being made, if slowly, on international efforts to establish a global jobs pact. "There is agreement that it is important," he said. "The issue now is that with various international organizations agreeing with the idea, what are they going to do about it?"
The ITUC´s Mr. Ryder, who also served as panellist for the lunchtime meeting, said "I think that our political leaders cannot afford to be not responsive on the unemployment crisis. And they can´t afford to appear sympathetic to bankers and not to working families. There is a remarkable opportunity both in ideas and in the politics of the moment. If you put jobs at the centre, if you commit to employment. . . that is what we have to push for right now.
The public symposium, UNCTAD´s first, reflects the organization´s policy of working closely with other United Nations agencies - otherwise known as the "One UN" approach -- to address pressing global issues. It also reflects UNCTAD´s commitment to responding quickly to trends in the world economy to complement its long-term analysis and perspective.