G20 Labor and Employment Ministers' Meeting
On April 20 and 21, Labor and Employment Ministers from the G20, the group of the world’s 20 largest economies, met for the first time in history in Washington at the U.S. Department of Labor. These countries account for 85% of the global economy and more than two thirds the world’s population. This meeting provided the Labor and Employment Ministers with an unprecedented opportunity to tackle one of the worst legacies of the global economic crisis: the loss of millions of jobs.
The need is dire. While some economic vital signs are improving, global unemployment has surged by 34 million reaching record 212 million in 2009. Even where economies are growing, unemployment rates remain high and could even continue climbing. In many countries, long term unemployment is also spreading. This lingering job loss is particularly worrisome because in the past, recessions triggered by financial crises have raised unemployment rates, and kept them up, for average of four years. And this recession has wreaked more havoc than any since the Great Depression.
In the face of this jobs crisis, G20 governments quickly reached a consensus that a jobless recovery is unacceptable. At the 2009 Pittsburgh Summit, President Obama and other leaders of the G20 nations declared that "we cannot rest until the global economy is restored to full health and hard working families the world over can find decent jobs." They pledged to implement recovery plans that "support decent work, help preserve employment, and prioritize job growth," and to continue to "provide income, social protection, and training support for the unemployed."
The G20 countries have already taken forceful and innovative steps to create and protect jobs and livelihoods. The ILO estimates that this year and last year alone, economic stimulus programs and automatic stabilizers in place in G20 countries have saved or created 21 million jobs that would otherwise have vanished, cutting job losses by nearly 40 percent. (Read the ILO report: Accelerating a Job-Rich Recovery)
Countries have launched new programs and ramped up existing ones. They have created jobs building roads, irrigation systems and railways. They have renovated schools and invested in health, education, public safety, and “green” energy, and spurred job creation by cutting taxes and supporting small enterprises. Some have implemented job-sharing programs and some have targeted help to at-risk workers including youth, low-income families, and the long-term unemployed.
Many countries have also strengthened their social safety nets, expanding unemployment benefits, cash transfer programs and access to health care and pensions. Rather than slashing social spending to balance budgets, as some did in previous recessions, they are building a basic social protection floor for the most vulnerable.
The Labor and Employment Ministers’ Meeting provided an opportunity for G20 countries to showcase what they have done and share information about what has worked and what has not and why. Ministers took stock of current trends in labor markets and the latest research by the ILO and OECD and discussed what additional steps should be taken to create more jobs and better jobs and to prepare the workforce for the jobs of the future. They agreed on a series of recommendations for the G20 Leaders, and met with President Obama at the White House to present these recommendations to him.