ILO Director General: Azerbaijan is a great place for dialogue between government, workers and employers

ILO Director General: Azerbaijan is a great place for dialogue between government, workers and employers

Baku, March 4, AZERTAC

In an exclusive interview with AZERTAC, Director General of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Guy Ryder responded to questions about the cooperation between the ILO and Azerbaijan, its future prospects, the joint projects, as well as consistent and large-scale reforms carried out in the field of employment and occupation in Azerbaijan.

We present the interview.

-How would you assess the results of the Global Forum for a Human-Centred Recovery held on 22-24, February 2022, and the commitments made during the Forum?

-The idea of the forum was to bring together the national leaders at the highest level, heads of state and government, heads of international organizations, UN Secretary General, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Head of the World Trade Organization and World Health Organization, and employers and workers, leaders from around the world, to talk about the crisis that has been brought about by the pandemic, the economic and social crisis, as well as to work out what we need to do together to assure what we at the ILO call a human-centred recovery.

We believe that a satisfactory resolution of the crisis cannot be achieved alone through health policy, or alone through labour policy, or alone financial policy, or alone trade policy. We have to integrate all these elements in a coherent approach and this needs to have an international dimension. So bringing together the national with international, bringing together all these dimensions of policy, and of course, because we are at the ILO, bringing workers and employers into the dialogue with the objective. And I think this has been the most important encounter and most important forum. And I am very pleased with the conversations that took place during the forum.

The important commitments were made by different organizations. We need to promote coherence and I think there is a much better general understanding of the challenges of what we call a human-centred recovery. So to that extent, I am pleased with the results of the Forum.

I have to say clearly that this forum is a beginning, it is not an end, it is not a final result. We have understood our ambitions, our good intentions, and now we have to move to actions and still we have to do much more in that regard. So, the Forum, I believe, represents the first very important step in that direction.

-The pandemic seems to be gradually coming to an end. Could you please provide concrete figures to illustrate the COVID-19 crisis’s impact on the economies and people, in particular on their employment opportunities and loss of incomes? When can we expect to return to the pre-pandemic levels?

-We do see a lessening of the pandemic although the pandemic is still very much present in some parts of the world, particularly in South East Asia. Throughout the pandemic, the ILO has tried to measure the impact of the pandemic on jobs, employment, work. In 2020, when the pandemic broke out we tried to measure the number of hours that were actually worked, the actual number of hours worked in the world. And we found that the hours of work performed have been reduced by the equivalent of 258 million full time jobs compared to pre-pandemic levels. In 2021, exactly the same process, and the number we came out with was 125 million. So you can see there was already a recovery in jobs. And what do we foresee, we made estimates that at the end of last year that in 2022 we think that figure will be about 52 million. If all goes well, we will return to the pre-pandemic levels next year.

We are seeing a two-speed recovery, this is to say, that the advanced and richer economies are bouncing back quickest. So is China by the way, but they still have pandemic difficulties. The developing world, most of the emerging economies are not recovering so quickly. And that is for two reasons. One is that the richest countries have more financial resources to invest in recovery rather than developing world facing crisis. The second point is that the rich world has access to much more vaccination to capacity than the developing world. And in many ways, vaccination is a precondition of economic recovery. So, slow, uncertain and unequal is the state of recovery.

-We would like to draw attention to the cooperation between the ILO and Azerbaijan. How do you, as the DG, evaluate this cooperation, as well as Azerbaijan's experience in collaboration with the ILO?

-I am the first ILO DG to have visited Azerbaijan. I came to Baku. During my visit to Baku, I was able to discuss with President Ilham Aliyev and the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population the cooperation between the ILO and Azerbaijan. And the positive news I think is that there is very encouraging attitude towards our corporation both from the Azerbaijani side and from the ILO side. It is also commendable that the national tripartite commission on economic and social affairs is functioning well. Great place for dialogue between government, workers and employers.

-The development of a new ILO Country Program with Azerbaijan will mark a new phase of cooperation. This document will be consistent with the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) between the UN and Azerbaijan. What would you like to see as priorities in that program?

-There are many things we've done together that we can build upon and looking forward for effective cooperation between the ILO and Azerbaijan on a new decent work country program.

This is a cooperation framework up until 2025. This is been negotiated with not just the government but the social partners. And this will give the framework for all future cooperation. And priorities which have been established are reducing vulnerability of work with a focus on young people, youth employment, strengthening institutions and public service delivery and also it's very important for me reinforcing respect for international labor standards. So, the past record is good and I think the perspectives with future a good as well.

-"From education to employment: support for young, highly educated, first-time job seekers", "Youth employment - start your own business". Will the organization continue implementing such projects?

-We have worked hard on youth placement opportunities in Azerbaijan something, which the government attaches great importance, the modernization of public employment services. Also, a transition is very important in the life of the pandemic from informal work to formal work. This is a vital challenge which has been made clear by the pandemic and we have also worked to improve systems of social protection in Azerbaijan.

I've had some very honest conversations in Baku about the need to diversify economic activity and employment in your country. We know the importance of the hydrocarbon sector but one has to be prepared for the future. I am encouraged particularly with the emphasis on youth employment services that Azerbaijan is not simply satisfied with making the existing economy work well but it's also preparing the economy for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow a more diversified economy. So, think that is one of the things which underpins our successful operation.

The Azerbaijani friends identify themselves governments employers and workers and those are clear. It is about vulnerability at work and resilience and young people, it's about building institutions making them stronger and it's about international labor standards. I'm very happy with those priorities. They certainly correspond very neatly with the ILO's own of priorities and they fit in well as you indicated to the United Nations cooperation framework. We're on the right path.

Yes, indeed. In line with what we just said that the priorities established in our country program we are ready to do this. And again I've seen in Azerbaijan how the government wanted to reach out to youth in very different settings, including in the rural economy. Sometimes we focus our attention quite narrowly but I was very pleased that the government in Azerbaijan owns a very broad approach to youth employment, in different sectors in different parts of your country. That is the wish of the Azerbaijani friends. I believe that it is. Yeas, we will continue to work with a particular reference do youth employment.

-The COVID- pandemic has reaffirmed the importance of tripartite (government, trade unions and employers) social dialogue, as well as corporate social responsibility in maintaining stability in the labor market, protecting jobs and wages. All of this, that is to say tripartism is the basic principle on which the ILO is based. Which new initiatives is the organization seeking in this regard?

-Well your questions make a very important point in itself which is that tripatism - which is a dialogue between government workers and employers it's like the life blood of the DNA of the ILO. This is how we do everything. It's not just an ideological principle because experience shows you know way you can get governmental workers employees to sit together and work out solutions. These are very practical instruments. It is a practical way of arriving at real world solutions to sometimes complex problems. We have to make social dialogue function effectively. And I think that requires 2 things. Firstly, it requires political will but dialogue. In some countries I won't mention any names that political will governments are not that interested in working with private sector and trade unions. So, we have to create that political will and make the case with tripartism. And then secondly, and this is equally important, we have to make sure that the capacities of organizations is sufficient to engage effectively in dealing with what are all sometimes highly technical and complex problems. So we have a responsibility at the ILO to help build strong and capable trade unions and employees organizations so that they can be representative but also capable partners in the dialogue. Otherwise, a dialogue is not as productive as it really needs to be.

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