Sat | Dec 5, 2020

Elizabeth Morgan | ILO: Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work

Published:Wednesday | August 14, 2019 | 12:00 AM

I am returning to an article I wrote in May on the future of work. In that article, I referred to the link between trade and labour and informed that the report of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Global Commission on the Future of Work titled Work for a Brighter Future would be considered at the 108th Session of the ILO Conference commemorating the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the organisation. This conference was held in Geneva, Switzerland, June 10-21.

Heads of state and government, including from the Caribbean, prime ministers Andrew Holness of Jamaica and Mia Mottley of Barbados, were invited to address a high-level segment of the conference. Referring to future work, Prime Minister Holness stated that the daunting task ahead was embracing the sweeping technology changes, while protecting and preserving the dignity of labour.

He noted that Caribbean leaders were conscious of the future and their obligation to the next generation. The region had to seize the moment, drawing on its creativity and tradition of putting people first. PM Mottley reminded that regardless of technological advances, the fundamental principles and rights governing labour will remain paramount and pointed to the need to explore workers’ ownership of technology.

The conference adopted the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work. The declaration sets out the major challenges and opportunities for the future of work and provides guidance and a platform for international cooperation in addressing the issues. It sets out the work programme going forward. The declaration emphasises a human-centred approach to the future of work, and its contribution to sustainable economic growth and development stating that:

n The ILO marks its centenary at a time of transformative change in the world of work driven by technological innovations, demographic shifts, environmental and climate change, and globalisation and at a time of persistent inequalities.

n It is imperative to act with urgency to seize opportunities and address the challenges to shape a fair, inclusive and secure future of work with full, productive and freely chosen employment and decent work for all.

n Such a future of work is fundamental for sustainable development that ends poverty and leaves no one behind.

The declaration speaks to the role of the private sector, stating that the ILO must direct efforts to supporting the private sector as a principal source of economic growth and job creation. It also points to trade, industrial and sectoral policies as among areas through which the human-centred approach can promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and full and productive employment.

Thus, at the national and regional levels, the implementation of this Centenary Declaration requires policy coherence and effective coordination among public and private sector bodies and worker representatives. I hope that in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries, we will be hearing more about the implementation of this historic declaration, not just from the tripartite bodies but from the ministries responsible for foreign trade, finance, industry, commerce, agriculture, fishing, tourism, and science and technology.

At the regional level, I would also like to see the CARICOM Council on Trade and Development collaborating with the Council for Human and Social Development, the Caribbean Employers Confederation, the Caribbean Congress of Labour and the ILO’s Caribbean Office. Consultations should also involve other Caribbean private-sector organisations.

I join in congratulating the recently announced winners of the ILO Caribbean Essay Competition on the Future of Work. This competition involved the youth (future workers) in the discussions on future of work.

Regarding principles, rights, standards, note that the ILO Conference also adopted a new standard, the Convention to End Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.

Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade policy and international politics. Email feedback to