India needs policies focussing on job-rich growth and equality: ILO chief Gilbert F. Houngbo

International Labour Organization Director General Gilbert Houngbo asks member countries to channel collective efforts and resources to achieve social justice and decent work for all

Updated - December 11, 2022 11:35 pm IST

Published - December 11, 2022 10:56 pm IST - Singapore

Gilbert Houngbo, Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO). File

Gilbert Houngbo, Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO). File | Photo Credit: AP

In his concluding remarks at the 17th Asia Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM) of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Singapre on Friday, ILO Director General and former Prime Minister of Togo, Gilbert F. Houngbo, said he looked forward to continuing the consultations towards the development of the Global Coalition for Social Justice. He asked the member countries to ensure greater policy coherence among multilateral, regional and national stakeholders, and to channel the collective efforts and resources to achieve social justice and decent work for all. Developing institutional frameworks to support transitions towards formality and decent work, to strengthen the foundations for social and employment protection and resilience, and to revitalise productivity growth and skills are also important according to him. In an exclusive interaction with The Hindu’sA.M. Jigeesh at the sidelines of the event, Mr. Houngbo said India should focus on job-rich growth and equality to address the crisis created by COVID 19 pandemic and other issues such as the Ukraine situation. Excerpts:

What do you think is the major outcome of this APRM?

We have to consider the most pressing issues in the region. The region needs to work more on the ratifications of the ILO standards and to implement them. There are several countries in the region where workers are facing problems. People are disappearing, people are being jailed. We need to find a better way to balance the need for economic growth and respect for minimum right and protections for workers. This has come up in this meeting. With this, of course, the underlining issue of social dialogue was also taken up, along with issues of migrant workers from receiving and sending countries was also discussed.

The participants were focussed in deepening the debate on those issues and sharing their experiences so that countries can look forward to implement the suggestions of this meeting. The region is fast growing economically. But, frankly, I feel that the social side is really lagging behind. This has a negative and direct impact on inequality.

There were two recent ILO reports flagging the problem of decrease in wages and the impact of inflation. What are your policy prescriptions for the member countries to face these multiple crises?

Obviously, the policies have to be adopted by each country according to its conditions. I am very careful to not to give an impression of a top-down approach. Investment in job-rich and employment-rich sectors is the way forward.

Similarly, inflation is a big concern for all of us. We need price stability. Central banks are tightening the monitory space. When we are making these monitory restrictions, we have to look at the impact of these restrictions on the job market. We have to make sure that such decisions should help control inflation but they do not worsen the precarious situation.

The situation in Ukraine was another major point for discussion. What are your views?

The whole globe is already suffering from Ukraine situation. Our first point would always be calling for cessation of hostilities and that every body should be around the table for negotiations. My first call would be for stop of the war and try to find an acceptable solution.

Secondly, Ukraine situation, coupled with other crises, is causing inflation and energy crisis. Those who are paying the price for this are those who have nothing to do with this crisis. Those who are left behind, particularly because of the inflation, are low paid citizens. They are forced to spend a big amount of the proportion of their salaries for basic needs. I am very worried also about fertilizer situation and the risk of food security. More than that, the whole danger is that the multiple crises, including the war in Ukraine, push much more people below the poverty line.

India too suffered due to this pandemic. How do you see the situation in India?

Countries like India are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. As a G-20 country, India is very well-placed to move forward. By focussing on job-rich growth and equality, India can move forward further. I am very worried about the consequences of COVID-19 in India too. If the recovery is stalled because of inflation and other reasons, I am worried that it might increase inequality in a country like India. India needs policies focussing on job-rich growth and equality.

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