Stick to Your Mandate, Chao Urges ILO

U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao spoke in favor of growth in the developing world June 11 in prepared remarks for delivery at the 96th Session of the International Labor Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. She also said the recent ILO report "Decent Work for Sustainable Development," which said workers in developing countries haven't benefited from the growth of the worldwide economy, miss the essential point that growth fuels decent work.

"It is hoped that future ILO reports will place more emphasis on the responsibility of national governments to create the climate for growth and job creation within their own countries. Factors that favor sustainable growth and job creation include free markets, openness to trade, transparent and accountable institutions, and the rule of law," Chao said, according to a transcript posted on the DOL Web site. "The recent achievements by developing countries make it clear that market forces and trade liberalization have not been discredited. In fact, countries embracing market reforms and trade liberalization are showing the strongest growth, creating the greatest number of jobs, and lifting the largest number of people out of poverty. A recent World Bank study divided groups of developing countries into two categories: globalizers and nonglobalizers. Countries that have opened up their domestic markets and embraced trade liberalization have experienced growth rates in excess of 5 percent over the 1990s. The nonglobalizers, by contrast, had a cumulative growth rate over the 1990s of 1.4 percent. Where there is progress, there will always be inequities that must be addressed. But focusing on static snapshots of inequality never gives a complete or accurate picture of development. Successful economic strategies provide a ladder of opportunities through which the poorest members of society can progress and better themselves. We would like to see more research devoted to upward mobility and identifying strategies that foster upward mobility."

She urged ILO to "continue to focus on the important areas in which it has a comparative advantage. Those areas include promoting democracy and workers rights, developing coherent approaches to employment, and helping countries develop the capacity to manage a flexible, effective, and productive labor system, centered in the private sector. And we commend the Director General's emphasis on strengthening statistical measures of employment. But serving as the advocate for education, broad-based social protection and health care is the mission of other UN agencies," Chao said. "The ILO has a clear mandate and should focus on that. Before it expands its portfolio, we hope the ILO will devote more attention and resources to strengthening the transparency and accountability of its current programs. As the oldest UN technical and specialized agency, ILO leadership on transparency and accountability can serve as a model for others in the UN system."

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