Agenda for a global employment programme


Employment is a global problem that cannot be fully solved by individual countries in isolation. Policy measures at the national level influence trade and investment flows and employment rates in other countries. Economic growth and expansion of employment in one country enhance employment opportunities in other countries as well. Therefore, co ordination of policies is in the interests of the global community. A comprehensive and coordinated international effort is called for to improve the global climate for economic growth and job creation by evolving stable and supportive policies to regulate capital flows, foreign trade, debt, commodity pricing, immigration and labour movements, transfer of technology, investment, military spending and the arms trade. We set forth below a broad policy framework to stimulate global job growth with the aim of achieving full employment early in the twenty-first century.

World employment programme

Raising incomes and creating jobs in the developing countries is the best way to promote global economic growth and employment generation in the coming decades. The World Summit on Social Development should call for a comprehensive World Employment Programme to stimulate more rapid growth in developing countries as an engine for global economic expansion. The International Labour Organization has operated a programme for the past two decades, but solution of the employment problem requires an integrated approach that transcends the scope of any single international agency. The programme should establish specific objectives and co ordinate efforts to stimulate international investment, increase labour market flexibility, promote productive skills, diffuse technology, and eliminate protectionist trade policies that retard growth, increase trade between developing countries, and promote international cooperation on taxation systems to encourage more labour-oriented tax codes.

Coordination of macro-economic policies

The efforts of the industrial nations to achieve higher rates of economic growth and job creation are stymied by the need to maintain macro-economic stability at the same time. Due to the competition between OECD members to attract financial resources, rising interest rates or falling inflation rates in one country influence the inflow and outflow of financial resources from other members of the community. The efforts to curb inflation at the expense of slower economic growth and job creation need not be so rigorous, if OECD members more closely coordinated their policies to support macro-economic expansion. A modest, relatively uniform rise in inflation rates within the OECD would not then result in a significant movement of resources or fluctuation in exchange rates.

Shift investment from defense to education and training

Reduce global defense spending by an additional 50 per cent before the end of the decade to below a maximum threshold of $400 billion. Invest at least 10 per cent of the global savings from defense cuts in education and training.

Liberalize agricultural and textile exports

Utilize agriculture as an engine of industrialization, international trade and employment generation by reducing the barriers to a major expansion of agricultural production and exports from and between developing countries. More than two billion people in developing countries, representing about 35 per cent of the entire world's population, are dependent on agriculture as a primary source of livelihood. This compares with 45 million people in industrial countries, which represents less than 1 per cent of the world's population. Agriculture is the most heavily protected sector of world trade. In 1991 the industrial nations spent more than $180 billion on agricultural subsidies to support their farm populations, which is three times the total world overseas development assistance. These subsidies cost Western consumers another $135 billion annually in terms of higher food costs. Agricultural protectionism in the North not only places powerful constraints on exports from developing countries, but also directly interferes with the livelihood of one-third of the entire human race living in developing countries.

The elimination of the system of quotas and subsidies to Western farmers can dramatically reduce the budget deficits of industrial nations and bring down food prices, while stimulating large-scale expansion of agriculture, industrialization and job growth in developing countries. Existing trade barriers by the industrial nations to textile exports cost developing countries an estimated $50 billion annually. The complete elimination of these barriers could result in a doubling of textile exports by developing countries. This labour-intensive industry can be another engine for job creation in developing countries and rising demand for technology and capital goods from the industrial nations. The progressive reduction, leading to the eventual elimination, of barriers to trade in agricultural products and textiles is an important step that can substantially improve the employment opportunities of people in developing countries.

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