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Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
The pursuit of competitiveness must go hand in hand with promoting decent work
2014 International Labour Conference
Geneva, 9 June 2014
Ladies and gentlemen,
This Conference holds great importance for the European Union.
The EU is experiencing an economic recovery, which is on the other hand very modest and uneven.
Unemployment in the EU, and also in the Eurozone has started to fall, but we need to strengthen the commitment to quality job creation among the policy priorities of our Member States.
Combating long-term unemployment, tackling inactivity and early school leaving among young people, and boosting female participation in the labour market are key components of our employment strategy.
We are implementing an EU-wide Youth Guarantee so that all young people receive a good-quality offer of employment, an apprenticeship, a traineeship or the chance to continue their education or training within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed.
Our cooperation with the ILO on this matter has been very constructive.
On the other hand, we are also aware that targeted interventions cannot be substitutes for a supportive macroeconomic policy mix, and in particular for repairing the European single currency.
We are striving to strengthen the social dimension of our Economic and Monetary Union, having understood that without collective action to tackle employment and social challenges in a timely and effective manner, long-lasting disparities may develop, with great risk to social as well as institutional sustainability.
Strengthening the social dimension of the EMU involves a new scoreboard of indicators to identify major employment and social challenges quickly, forestall major problems and reconcile economic efficiency and social fairness in decision-making. It also may soon lead to discussing options for automatic stabilisers in a new EMU architecture.
This effort serves the endeavour for better coherence in macroeconomic, employment and social policies, which is one of the key messages of this Conference.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The European Union made a substantial contribution to all agenda items of the Conference.
First, we need to be better equipped to combat today's forms of forced labour and protect the victims more effectively.
All EU Member States have ratified the core labour standards, including Convention No 29 on forced labour.
They form part of our international agreements, instruments and our bilateral co-operations.
Our treaties and legislation cover action to combat forced labour, and we have special legislation on trafficking in human beings.
We therefore consider this standard-setting process as very important and we hope that the Conference confirms agreement on this issue.
Second, labour migration is a key feature of the world of work today. It involves complex policy challenges that need addressing at all levels.
I also want to thank Director-General Guy Ryder for his report on Fair Migration.
The ILO Conventions have inspired our legislation, which grants non-EU workers rights at work comparable to those of EU citizens.
We promote Convention No 189 on domestic workers and we are working with the ILO to improve the situation of migrant domestic workers in migration corridors around the world.
And, in particular, I would like to welcome the publication of the World of Work report. It contains useful pointers on policies that boost quality employment effectively.
A key point is the need to address the increase in inequality, which is detrimental to economic growth and social cohesion.
The World of Work report makes the point that the pursuit of competitiveness must go hand in hand with promoting decent work, and we agree with that approach.
Last week, in the same spirit, I presented a new Strategic Framework for Health and Safety at Work for the European Union.
This new strategy aims to promote safe and healthy working conditions for all workers, ensure a level playing-field and boost productivity across the EU. It highlights the importance of closer international cooperation on health and safety at work — for instance in global supply chains.
The Sustainability Compact for Bangladesh involving the EU, the USA, the ILO, and the government of Bangladesh is a practical example of an integrated approach to working conditions throughout the supply chain.
It has brought progress in labour standards and building safety in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment sector but I am sure you agree that much more needs to be done.
The European Union contributes actively to the G20 sub-group on Safer Workplaces to improve health and safety at work in the G20 countries, and elsewhere.
During this Conference, we actively contributed to the discussions on informal economy and support the adoption the amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention.
Lastly, we agree that this Conference should conclude that sustainable development is impossible without progress in the employment and decent work agenda, which should be included as a central goal in the post-2015 development framework.
We have also voiced support and appreciation for the ILO’s efforts to include full, productive employment, decent work and social protection within the post-2015 framework.
We believe in the great added value of the tripartite International Labour Organisation in addressing these global issues.
We share a common ambition to make the world a better place to work and live in.