U.N. agency head outlines global work challenges

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John Carberry
James Brudney, Guy Ryder, Harry Katz, Karen Tramontano
From left, James Brudney, Fordham Law School; International Labour Organization Director General Guy Ryder; ILR School Dean Harry Katz; and Karen Tramontano of Blue Star Strategies, LLC.

International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Guy Ryder described global challenges to work and employment when he spoke at the ILR School’s Worker Institute in New York City Sept. 27.

“The problem of joblessness is now recognized as a key – if not the key – challenge of the future, and beyond that, the issue of inequality,” said Ryder, former general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.

The ILO represents governments, employer representatives and worker organizations to create international policy solutions to challenges facing the world of work. In addition to 200 million unemployed people worldwide, he said, his organization focuses on issues related to the working poor, lack of quality work and the growth of inequality and informal work.

Ryder was in New York City to attend the United Nations’ General Assembly and to discuss the ILO’s views on the post-2015 development agenda. “There are big problems out in the world that governments individually and collectively are struggling to address,” he said.

Ryder highlighted the challenge that climate change poses to workers and the economy, saying he believes aligning economic and social needs with environmental challenges will be a defining feature of the ILO’s work in the 21st century.

“The paradox is that at the same time that I hear national leaders and some international organizations regret this situation, almost in the same breath, you hear policy recommendations which to my mind can only exacerbate that situation,” Ryder said.

New solutions are needed, many of which may go against the policy solutions and orthodoxies of the past several decades, said Ryder. He outlined the labor organization’s areas of “critical importance”: creating policies that generate job growth; addressing working conditions and standards of employment; eliminating unacceptable forms of work such as child labor; and addressing youth unemployment.

Ryder also described the agency’s new initiatives – women at work, the green initiative, addressing extreme poverty and engaging enterprises directly – that have been developed in response to major political and policy challenges.

Lara Skinner, co-director of the Worker Institute, said: “I was pleased to hear the director-general address many of the same issues and challenges that we are working on here at the Worker Institute. These include gender inequality and social equity at work, the rise of informal and precarious work and climate change.”

Jill Kubit is an associate at the Worker Institute.

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