BANGKOK (ILO News) * In an address to the 20th Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Labour Ministers* Meeting Juan
Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organization
(ILO), highlighted the ASEAN Charter signed late last year as a
*fundamental political commitment* to honour *the dignity of
work and respond to the legitimate aspirations of people and families
for a better life.*
Mr. Somavia noted the development success in the region which has
*fuelled growth and job creation. Today, the ASEAN consumer market
is larger in terms of spending power than India*with half the
population. But you have also identified significant challenges and
Citing the challenges of widespread poverty, rising inequalities, a
growing informal economy and skyrocketing food prices in Asia, he
supported labour ministers efforts to focus on vulnerable populations.
*The ASEAN of the future depends very much on how you deal with the
vulnerable of today* what I would call the Marginalized Majority who
are left on the sidelines of globalization*s success,* Mr. Somavia
said. *That*s precisely the decent work focus that you have chosen
for this meeting*.
Despite large reductions in working poverty, he added, nearly 150
million workers and their families are still living under the $2 per
person, per day poverty line.
*At the same time, I see a deep consciousness among leaders in the
region for proactive policies to sustain growth with equity*, Mr.
Somavia said in his speech on Thursday 8 May, noting that in different
stages and in different ways member States were taking action to
implement the ILO*s Decent Work agenda. *It is an agenda that
transforms through productive job creation, empowers through workers
rights, liberates through social protection, and unites through social
dialogue. It is a living agenda valid for all stages of life*.
He highlighted five key issues which he described as *critical* for
strengthening the social dimension of ASEAN integration and building on
joint efforts with countries in the region. These include developing a
comprehensive social floor that integrates social investments,
education and rights with market opportunities, and *permits people
not only to move out of poverty, but also to have a sure footing to
further move ahead in life towards middle income status*.
Secondly, strengthening employment and productivity in the rural
economy. *With the food price crisis, it is obvious now that we have
not given enough attention to agricultural production and
productivity*, he said, reminding the Ministers that these rural
employment issues will be on the agenda of the International Labour
Conference when it opens on May 28th in Geneva.
Thirdly, he noted the importance of promoting sustainable enterprises,
particularly small and medium sized enterprises that drive job creation,
allow people to move from the informal to formal economy, expand
domestic markets and improve overall competitiveness and productivity.
Describing migration as *one of the most delicate political
challenges we face* he welcomed the recent ASEAN Declaration on the
Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers as an
important area for continued collaboration
Mr. Somavia also raised the issue of *green jobs*, noting that
sustainable, clean and green development in ASEAN will require major
changes in technologies, production and consumption patterns. He said
ILO tools could help smooth this transition process, noting that social
dialogue and good industrial relations will be critical. Strategies for
promoting green jobs in response to climate change are to be discussed
at the G8 Ministers of Labour meeting that Mr Somavia will attend in
Japan next week..
Mr. Somavia began his speech by expressing profound sadness at the
immense human tragedy that has struck Myanmar in the wake of Cyclone
Nargis. *During this difficult time of crisis, I want to reiterate our
solidarity with the people of Myanmar and our commitment to the regional
and international effort of support,* he said.
The Director-General invited the ASEAN Ministers to join in celebrating
the ILO*s 90th anniversary next year, with a series of national
summits on *Social Dialogue for Decent Work and a Fair
The full text of Mr Somavia's speech can be found at