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Brussels, 1st December 2006

EU promotes decent work at home and abroad

The EU Council today endorsed European Commission proposals to strengthen EU policies, actions and programmes so as to promote decent work both within the Union and worldwide. Decent work – which covers more and better jobs with welfare protection, equal opportunities and social dialogue – can help developing countries fight poverty. Improving working and living conditions can also help EU Member States better confront the challenges of globalisation, technological progress and demographic change. The first EU-level conference on effectively implementing decent work through EU internal and external policies, including employment and social affairs, development and trade, will take place in Brussels on 4-5 December.

Half the world's workers earn less than two dollars a day and half the population has no welfare protection. Every year 2 million people die from work-related accidents and diseases and over 160 million workers fall ill due to workplace hazards.

"The concept of decent work for all is a way of tackling these inequalities," said Vladimír Špidla, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. "Higher economic growth is no guarantee of better jobs or less poverty – economic and social progress need to go hand in hand," he added. "The EU is focusing its efforts on helping workers and employers acquire the right tools to better manage change, combine flexibility and security in the labour market and strengthen social inclusion. EU Member States can also set an example for the rest of the world by ratifying and properly implementing the relevant international labour standards."

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said: "Trade creates jobs and decent jobs lift people out of poverty. But trade and social policies must work together to ensure that economic growth is based on fairness and basic labour standards. Through its work with the ILO and sustainability impact assessments for all new bilateral trade agreements, this is what the EU is doing. Putting trade policy at the service of development means putting it at the service of decent work."

Louis Michel, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, added: “More jobs and decent jobs are crucial if we want to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Without a decent job it is impossible to break the cycle of exclusion and poverty."

The Commission's communication on decent work for all of 24 May 2006 aims to go beyond ensuring minimum labour rights, by clearly setting out how to promote decent work. This means encouraging job creation and employability, extending the coverage of social welfare, improving governance and social dialogue, identifying and addressing decent work deficits and ensuring better cooperation between the main stakeholders and between international organisations. It shows how decent work makes economic sense by putting forward the business case for it.

Proposals include exploring ways of measuring decent work, encouraging better ratification and application of international labour standards, harnessing the opportunities trade offers for decent jobs, strengthening the contribution of decent work to EU development policy and external aid, and reinforcing cooperation with regional, international organisations, the business community and other parts of civil society. To do this, the Commission is also intensifying its cooperation with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and other international and regional organisations in relation to decent work.

To take stock of recent developments, the Commission is organising a conference on decent work on 4 and 5 December 2006 in Brussels, in cooperation with the Finnish EU Presidency. It will contribute to implementing decent work through EU internal and external policies, including development, external assistance and trade. EU and international stakeholders will actively participate in the debate. Director General of the ILO Juan Somavia will hold the key note address on 4 December, while Finnish Minister of Labour Ms. T. Filatov, Commissioner Špidla and Commissioner Mandelson will also address the conference.
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