From the President’s Desk:
Focusing international labor policy on entrepreneurship and enterprise creation
By Peter M. Robinson
Globalization and the integration of international markets have been a tremendous benefit for the countries that have prepared themselves to take advantage of the new opportunities they provide. But for those countries that have failed to adjust or reform, these forces have exposed systemic failures in national governance that have in turn led to considerable social upheaval due to increased competition and changing labor markets.
Since social pressures can present a considerable barrier to maintaining or expanding international integration, a key policy challenge for international business is to develop effective mechanisms that can help countries reform their domestic policies to respond better to new external pressures. One such mechanism, the International Labor Organization (ILO) – the UN agency responsible for international labor and social policy – could play a leading role in this effort, and business is taking the lead to make it more responsive to employers’ needs.
Focusing on Current Needs
The main challenge in making the ILO more effective and relevant for the business community is to focus its machinery on developing practical and workable solutions to current social and labor policy challenges. The global business community took a significant step forward in this area when the International Organization of Employers (IOE) – one of USCIB’s key international affiliates – produced an Employers’ Vision of the ILO, a comprehensive business agenda for the ILO.
Developed under the direction of Abe Katz (see box), the outgoing chairman of the IOE and USCIB’s president emeritus, the Employers’ Vision presents a clear agenda for the ILO that promotes entrepreneurship and enterprise creation, the main ways jobs are created and sustained. The vision also calls for increased attention on productivity improvements through education, skills development and training.
The IOE also calls for international labor standards that are practical and implementable. Many existing standards set goals so impossibly high that few countries ratify them, and those that do so are unable to enforce them. Similarly, the IOE paper stresses that the ILO must help countries reform labor laws and other regulations that stifle enterprise creation and job growth, and which force operators into the ineffective and constraining informal economy.
International Business Leadership
Changing the ILO will not be easy or painless. A key reason for hope is that the ILO has a tripartite structure that is unique in the UN, meaning that employers and trade unions share voting power with the ILO’s member governments and participate in its oversight and management. USCIB Executive Vice President Ronnie Goldberg was recently re-elected to a second term on the ILO Governing Body.
On a broader level, USCIB relies on the IOE to coordinate international business engagement in the ILO. I was able to see the IOE in action at the annual International Labor Conference in June, when representatives of the IOE’s 145 national affiliates from 138 countries gathered in Geneva to speak on behalf on their business communities. The IOE is poised to build on the considerable achievements of Abe Katz in his term as IOE chairman under the new leadership of Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu, chairman of Pan African Capital Holdings of South Africa.
For more information or to get involved, please contact USCIB’s Adam Greene (212-703-5056, email@example.com).
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