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Brussels, 2 July 2008

Report on the EU contribution to promoting decent work throughout the world

Why is there a report now?

The report aims to track the progress of the EU’s contribution to promote decent work throughout the world and was requested as part of the Commission's 2006 Communication on this issue. Decent work – meaning more and better jobs with social protection, social dialogue, and equal opportunities – is crucial for developing countries, emerging economies and industrialised countries beyond the EU's borders to harness the benefits of globalisation and to manage change.

What is the decent work agenda about?

The decent work agenda is a key element in the international dimension of the EU's social agenda. It covers employment, rights at work, social protection, social dialogue and the gender dimension. Decent work for all is a universal concept, strongly promoted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and is also one of the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

Promoting decent work throughout the world for all contributes to fair globalisation, combining economic performance with social justice.

What are the main problems?

In areas with a shortage of decent work, the standard of living and quality of life of men and women are markedly lower. For example:

  • Half of the world's population has no social protection and 80% of workers do not have adequate social protection.
  • According to the ILO employment report 2008, despite world growth of more than 5%, the average global unemployment rate has not improved. In particular, some countries with very high growth rates are not creating jobs.
  • Worldwide, one in two people have insecure jobs according to ILO figures. In developing countries, this often means working in the informal economy with low pay, dangerous working conditions and little or no social protection. Women and young people are particularly affected.
  • The ILO has estimated that some 165 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are currently involved in child labour.

What has the Commission done over the last two years?

Since the 2006 Communication, the Commission has been making efforts to mobilise all EU institutions as well as other actors like the business community, social partners and civil society to promote decent work, for example through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and involvement in external policies.

It is also working to support commitments at international level, developing bilateral relations and exchange on these issues with partner countries and regions, as well as by integrating decent work objectives into the EU’s trade and development policies.

How will the Commission integrate decent work in external policies?

In bilateral relations, decent work is the subject of dedicated dialogues with neighbourhood countries, emerging economies such as China, India, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil and Chile and in regional fora with Asia (ASEM), Latin America and Africa.

Decent work objectives are integrated into the EU's development policy and external assistance.

Sustainability is a central theme in EU trade policy, and the interaction between trade and decent work, particularly in the context of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) and GSP+, the ongoing negotiations for Free Trade Agreements, aid for trade, and the capacity building and dialogue with interested countries.

What about international commitments?

Coordinated EU action helps shape the international agenda on decent work and the broader issue of fair globalisation. In the renewed Social Agenda presented today, the Commission reaffirms its commitment to promoting decent work at a global level by working with international bodies like the ILO.

The Commission is also calling on all Member States to set an example by ratifying and implementing the relevant up-to-date ILO Conventions on decent work. This ratification process is particularly important for the EU’s credibility in promoting decent work commitments on the global scene.

IP/08/1070: Commission proposes Renewed Social Agenda to empower and help people in 21st century Europe

Further information:

Staff Working Paper on Decent Work :

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