I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member states.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, and the EFTA countries Iceland and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine align themselves with this statement.
I would like to congratulate you on your election as Chairperson of this Committee.
The EU and its Member States welcome this opportunity to contribute to an informed and balanced discussion on inequalities and the world of work and would like to thank the Office for its report.
Inequalities in income and particularly wealth distribution, have reached worrying levels globally in recent decades. This trend has been exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The effects of inequalities are a daily reality for the world of work, principally for those in the informal economy or with low skilled jobs, female workers, young and older workers, migrants, indigenous peoples, workers with disabilities as well as others in vulnerable situations.
Inequality in the world of work is complex and multi-faceted and can constitute a barrier to labour market participation and lessen an individual’s ability of being an active member of society. Income inequality is key to understanding other forms of inequality, many of which have a socio-economic nature and are linked to both the access to and affordability of services related to education, healthcare, housing, and transportation. High levels of income inequality and inequality in labour conditions and wealth, have adverse consequences for economic growth, slow down poverty reduction, correlate with lower levels of health, trust, social mobility, and erode social cohesion.
Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic there was a broad consensus that high levels of inequality were having adverse social, economic, and political consequences. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the urgent need for prompt action to reduce inequality, in particular gender inequality, and promote inclusive growth. The impact of the pandemic, while immediately visible, its effects will be felt long term. In addition, it is compounded by the sustained impact of climate change, which also remains a key challenge in view of growing inequalities.
We fully share the objective set out in the Centenary Declaration, which calls for intensifying engagement and cooperation within the multilateral system, also in pursuance of Agenda 2030 objectives, with a view to strengthening policy coherence in line with the recognition that decent work and the respect of human rights are key to sustainable development, addressing income inequality and ending poverty. In this context, we would also like to underline the fundamental importance of addressing the challenges of global supply chains. We also strongly support the Global call to action for a human-centred recovery from the COVID‑19 pandemic, which seeks to build back better by helping the World of Work to also face ongoing mega trends, such as decarbonisation, digitalization and demography.
As regards Discussion Point 1 on how inequality between and within countries has evolved during the last two decades, both external factors but also political decisions have had an impact. Some of the main factors which can both reduce or aggravate inequalities, are globalisation or technological change, while negative aspects of others exacerbate disparities further, namely digital divide, environmental degradation, inefficient taxation, inadequate social transfers and protection systems, lack of health and safety conditions or hampered social dialogue. Initial analysis of the proactive support measures taken by governments in Europe, indicates that they have had a strong stabilizing effect in limiting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the most vulnerable societal groups.
As far as gender inequality is concerned, women face higher barriers in entering, remaining, and progressing in the labour market while continuing to shoulder most of the burden of unpaid care work. The gender pay and pension gap remain the two foremost consequences of ongoing gender discrimination, which has a continuing effect on women throughout their working lives and into retirement.
As inequalities exist before individuals enter the world of work, there is a need to address inequality through the entire life cycle. High inequality being experienced between adults today makes it more difficult to ensure equal opportunities for the next generation. Existing inequalities are also among the root causes of child and forced labour. The Office report also notes that workers in the informal economy by earning much less than formally employed are twice as likely to be poor.
Spatial inequalities also exist, particularly between rural and urban areas or indeed between richer and poorer regions which contributes to a growing sense of fractured and unequal societies. Small towns, suburbs and rural areas often suffer from unequal access to economic opportunities and essential social services infrastructures along with a rural-urban digital gap. As highlighted by the report four out of five people living in poverty are from rural areas.
During this Working Party’s discussion, we aim at contributing to a set of action‑oriented conclusions that should guide and encourage the ILO in its efforts to achieve and to make use of its strong voice for greater social equity for all.
We look forward to working with you all and hope to engage in fruitful discussions over the coming days.
*The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.