Four years ago, leaders representing 20 of the world’s most powerful economies gathered in Washington, D.C. and pledged to heal a broken global economic system so that it would foster robust, sustainable, and inclusive growth. The Group of 20 leaders from developed and developing nations pledged to address the jobs challenge, but the plans to restore confidence in markets, reform the financial sector, and restructure international financial institutions have taken precedence over concrete efforts to improve employment opportunities and outcomes.
And so today, more than 200 million worldwide remain unemployed, with many more underemployed or dropped out of the labor force entirely. Discontent is manifesting itself in growing protests that span from the United States across the globe to countries in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
The world’s people have been underserved by international and domestic economic policies, however well intentioned they are. It is time to focus on jobs. And not just any kind of job, but “just jobs” with appropriate wages, safe and respectful working conditions, and opportunities for economic mobility. As the G-20 leaders meet in Cannes, they must take the following three steps to make just jobs a priority in domestic and international policy frameworks.
Make the creation of “just jobs” a direct goal, not a side effect of other policy initiatives
Conventional wisdom maintains that economic growth will automatically lead to job creation. But economies worldwide from the United States to South Africa and India are experiencing jobless growth; economies are simply not creating enough jobs to absorb new entrants to the labor market and those unemployed because of economic shocks.
What is needed is job creation as the primary engine that creates economic growth—not the other way around. Job creation must be the direct goal, and this means:
- Investing in infrastructure and public works programs
- Exploring tax incentives aimed at helping businesses hire and expand
- Ensuring that active labor market programs aimed at work-sharing programs or vocational training programs provide a source of employment in and of themselves, but also help the unemployed, especially youth, be productive members of the economy fueling aggregate demand
Taking these steps will boost the kind of job creation that leads to lasting job creation.
Institute the necessary domestic legal frameworks to protect wages, workers’ rights, including the right to freedom of association, and collective bargaining
Creating more jobs is not enough. The jobs must be “just jobs” that are complete with appropriate wages, workers’ rights including the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining and economic mobility. Just jobs are not just a moral imperative, but also an economic imperative.
Good quality jobs are necessary for creating a healthy and productive workforce. And empowering civil society groups, such as unions and other labor organizations, can help with dispute resolution and ensuring that the economic system operates in service of real people, their livelihoods, and families. Unions and labor groups play a key role in helping enforce the laws that governments institute, thereby reducing the overall costs of implementation to governments and tax payers.
Make the creation of more and better jobs a core goal of multilateral institutions and their trade and investment policies
The G-20 must require multilateral finance, trade, and development institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Labor Organization, and the World Trade Organization to work together to develop a concrete multiyear plan to support “just job” creation for groups of countries at different levels of development.
More specifically, there is a real need to ensure that global economic integration through increasing trade, investment, and financial openness are mindful of their impact on labor markets and employment.
When the G-20 leaders come together in Cannes, they must move beyond rhetoric to real action on employment creation. Reviving aggregate demand, creating a level playing field and promoting political, social, and economic stability worldwide depends on it.
The Just Jobs Network is a global coalition of think tanks and institutions that advocate to ensure that the creation of just jobs complete with labor rights, appropriate remuneration, and social protections such as health care and pensions, and opportunities for economic mobility are a prime focus in international and national policies.