Social Justice in Global Development


United Nations expert group meeting, Geneva, Switzerland, 23-24 June, 2011

By Gemma Adaba, former Director of the ICFTU/ITS Washington Office

Hard won gains in terms of achieving decent livelihoods and workers’ rights began seriously eroding in 2008 with the onset of the economic and financial crisis. The net effect has been to roll back the gains in those countries and economic sectors where growth and well-being were beginning to make some progress, and to exacerbate the situation for millions of working women and men, already faced with the hardships of informal and precarious working arrangements. A sense of social tension and unrest is palpable in the world community of workers, spanning the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, through to widespread discontent in face of austerity measures introduced in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, and to protest movements spawned by proposed legislation to deprive public sector workers in Wisconsin, USA of their collective bargaining rights. And there is a sense that there is more to come.

These social upheavals can be traced back to inappropriate and unsustainable models of economic growth and development – models that keep wealth concentrated in a financialized sector with weak linkages to the real productive economy; - models that fail to provide vital public goods such as decent work and livelihoods for all, and democratic spaces for the enjoyment of fundamental human and trade union rights.

A comprehensive framework for employment-centred policies:

Global Unions therefore insist on the need for changes in the broader macro-economic framework and policy responses. There is a need for global coordination, so that policies converge and reinforce each other, and remain firmly linked to socially just outcomes, particularly decent work and social protection.

Countercyclical policies should prioritize the strengthening of labor markets through the following means. Investments should be promoted in areas such as infrastructure that would generate employment opportunities.

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