Statement to the President of the General Assembly's High Level Debate on the World Economy
- Middle East
GENERAL ASSEMBLY HIGH LEVEL DEBATE ON THE STATE OF THE WORLD'S ECONOMY
Combating unemployment, creating jobs (especially for women and youth), addressing poverty and social protection
Statement by H.E. Ms Philippa King
Deputy Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of Australia to the United Nations
Ladies and Gentlemen.
The 2007 and 2008 global financial crisis affected countries worldwide, but
it hit developing countries particularly hard.
The aggregate growth of developing countries dropped from almost 9 per cent
in 2007 to just 2 per cent in 2009. The crisis has also dramatically slowed
progress toward the Millennium Development Goals – the World Bank estimates
that as a result of the crisis an additional 64 million people were living in
extreme income poverty at the end of 2010.
It is in no one's interest to see slow economic growth entrenched –
the social and political implications of slow growth underline the importance
of getting the global economy back on track.
In particular, slowing economic growth means a rise in unemployment –
where youth and women are particularly affected.
According to the International Labour Organization, in 2012 more than 200 million
people worldwide will be unemployed and excluded from economic opportunity,
unable to use their skills, enjoy the dignity of earning an income and support
their families. This represents a significant increase in unemployment from
16 million people in 2007.
Of this figure, around 75 million young people are at risk of joining what
the ILO calls the 'scarred generation', facing high unemployment,
inactivity and persistently high working poverty, particularly in the developing
The ILO also estimates that over 400 million new jobs will be required over
the next decade to avoid a further rise in global unemployment.
Similarly, the share of women in vulnerable employment exceeds that of men,
particularly in North Africa, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Women's
participation in the economy supports economic growth and helps reduce poverty.
In rural areas, women make up the majority of the work force and play a crucial
role in food security at the household, community and national level.
In the face of this global economic and unemployment crisis, how can the international
community get growth and development back on track?
Ultimately, individual countries' domestic policies are the most crucial
to achieving growth and development and reducing inequities. But, as an international
community we are all in this together.
Shared and sustained economic growth remains a powerful driver for creating
jobs and reducing poverty, and is critical to achieving development outcomes.
And creating employment opportunities that foster job creation and promote decent
work is integral to any economic strategy that promotes strong, sustainable
and balanced growth.
Australia believes that now, more than ever, we need to work together on coordinated
solutions, globally and regionally, to revive global growth, address development
challenges, and combat unemployment and poverty.
Australia encourages the continued promotion of respect for the International
Labour Organisation Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, including through
the Economic and Social Council.
Strong global policy making can help ease the burden, particularly for developing
countries, in weathering financial crises, combating unemployment and addressing
poverty. But strong domestic policy is also important.
There are a number of steps countries can take to improve their general labour
market conditions. A useful example is the pragmatic policy making in Asia over
the last few decades, which has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty.
Each economy has pursued its own path, but the common factors have involved
opening economies up for trade and liberalising economies so the private sector
Using the experiences of the Asian Financial Crisis and the Global Financial
Crisis, Asian economies have strengthened national economies and regional cooperation
- starting to rebalance their economies from export-driven growth toward
domestic consumption, which reduces reliance on other countries' economic
- adopting macro-economic policies to improve their economies' capacity
to absorb shocks;
- continuing to open their economies to trade; and
- strengthening regional funds to ensure currency markets remain stable.
In addition to these general measures, specific measures are required to help
young people enter the workforce.
Combining workplace and classroom training provides young people with important
work experience and a strong employment service provider can direct young people
into the positions that best utilise their skills.
Governments can also ensure unemployed youth have the opportunity to increase their employability through education and vocational training, which ensures they do not become disengaged from society and the economy. This is the approach Australia has adopted, but policies must be adopted to suit the varying circumstances of each country.
Social protection is also a critical safety net in case of future crises.
Social protection supports households that, for no fault of their own, lose
access to paid work. It means households don't have to use up savings
or go into debt until paid work re-emerges. It means children can still attend
school and obtain medical treatment. It means domestic economic activity is
maintained, and can help avoid recession. It means people can access training
and build new skills for new jobs.
Australia believes that the promotion of national social protection strategies,
including social protection floors, that are compatible with broader national
social, economic and employment capabilities, is a key policy requirement for
building productive capacity.
Two projects currently funded under the Australian Government-ILO Partnership
Agreement promote productive capacity, employment and decent work to contribute
to inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth.
In Timor Leste, the Youth Employment Promotion Programme, which finished in
2012, supported the initiatives of the Government of Timor-Leste to enhance
skills training for young people and expand employment opportunities. It also
helped the Government develop better employment programs and policies so that
young Timorese people could get nationally recognised training, job counselling
and other support to improve their employment prospects.
The Youth Employment Promotion Programme has assisted an estimated number of
more than 100,000 people with 50 per cent being young women and men.
With Australian support, a National Qualification Framework has been approved
for technical and vocational education subjects. For the first time in 2012,
young Timorese people can access nationally accredited TVET training.
Since 2008, short-term jobs in public works have been created for approximately
78,000 people, mostly youth, providing them with important livelihood assistance.
Over 20,000 unemployed people have been counselled by Timorese employment counselling
services, equipping them to find employment. And around 5,000 people, most of
them young men and women, have participated in skills development programs,
making them better prepared to get jobs and support their families.
The Pacific Growth and Employment Plan is a two-year project commencing in
2012 that contributes to employment, decent work objectives, growth and poverty
reduction in the Pacific. This will be achieved through identification and support
of measures to expand productive enterprises, grow sustainable industries and
increase opportunities for sustainable and productive employment in the transport
and tourism sectors.
Assistance has a more significant, lasting impact if it builds the productive
capacity and economic resilience of our developing country partners –
and this is why Australia places a strong focus on projects that target job
creation and improved livelihoods for the poor.
The UN system has a key role to play in ensuring the global economy stays on
the path of comprehensive, broad-based, inclusive and sustainable growth and
UN members must contribute to these efforts, through a commitment to continuing
ODA, through global and regional policy coordination and through strong domestic
Australia will continue to actively engage in UN fora, including UNCTAD and
the Rio+20 Conference, and encourage collaboration with other forums like the
G20 and the Bretton Woods institutions, to work towards the achievement of development
Australia's G20 development priorities this year are: food security,
green growth and financial inclusion. We are also delivering on previous Australian-led
G20 commitments to expand social protection coverage in low income countries
and lower the international cost of sending migrant remittances.
Green growth is a key priority for Mexico's 2012 G20 Presidency and Australia
has accepted Mexico's invitation to co-lead the G20's development
work in this area. The Development Working Group is developing practical measures
of support for developing countries and building momentum for outcomes at the
UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). G20 measures being considered
include a best practice policy toolkit to assist low income countries design
and implement green growth strategies.
Australia is leading G20 work with South Africa and Mexico to increase financial
services for the poor. Almost 2.7 billion people in developing countries lack
access to basic financial services and G20 outcomes being developed include
improving access to finance for small business and women entrepreneurs. And
we are working to deliver on Australian-led G20 commitments from the 2011 Cannes
Summit to expand social protection coverage in low income countries and lower
the international cost of sending migrant remittances.
At the national level, governments must implement economic policies that will
help an enduring recovery and move economies to a strong, sustainable and balanced
Effective policy coherence between economic and labour market policies is necessary
both at the national and international levels to ensure rising economic growth
translates into significant employment and social outcomes.
In particular, education and skills development, and strong social protection
schemes are vital to combating unemployment and poverty, and creating decent