Across the globe, the focus must shift to fighting youth unemployment
“We must focus on youth unemployment and generating proper work. And by proper work I mean advancing the fundamental rights of workers. Furthermore, it is imperative that social protection for workers is increased and that social dialogue in companies is encouraged. Only then can we really tackle the inequality in income and prosperity. We also need to address the importance of the role of the trade unions”, according to CNV vice-president Arend van Wijngaarden.
That is the message Van Wijngaarden wanted to give the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington on 8 February. He was speaking there at a meeting with unions from all over the world about inequality in income and prosperity. CNV International defines inequality as a disproportionate division of the benefits offered by economic growth with regard to income, access to health services and education.
Tackling the volatile labour market
At the World Bank and IMF, Van Wijngaarden will advocate ending the unilateral vision of fiscal and monetary regulations and structural reforms and reorganisation. “We must shift our focus to stimulating youth employment and decent work.” He used the Dutch example of the increasing number of self-employed. “Because of the increase in reorganisations since the financial crisis people are sometimes forced to continue as independent contractors. Often, they are not insured against illness and they do not accumulate pension rights. This only leads to growing uncertainty.
We must utilise economic growth to really invest in public sectors and in training workers, so they can continue to anticipate and respond quickly to the rapidly changing technological labour market. To tackle the increasing volatility of the labour market – which leads to inequality – it is vitally important that we improve the rights of workers through social insurances, pension schemes and with equal pay for equal work.”
Inequality within countries on the rise
Van Wijngaarden: “International studies have shown that although the inequality between countries is decreasing, the inequality within countries is actually on the rise. There is growing consent that we cannot tackle this inequality by stimulating economic growth alone. We need to do much more to achieve our goal. Decent work, with the emphasis on equal pay and safety in the workplace, is a direct means to prevent inequality.”
Furthermore, an IMF memo has shown that the erosion of the labour market increases as the influence of trade unions decreases. This makes social dialogue with companies with globally strong, independent and constructive unions indispensable.
In 2014, the IMF ascertained that the priority should be tackling unemployment, by combining good labour market policy with protective regulations for workers, such as introducing the minimum wage. This requires trade unions that can negotiate good labour conditions.
Minister Ploumen has previously stated that she will draw up proposals to make the agreements within the CETA about workers interests and rights solid and enforceable. CETA is the free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada that is currently being drawn up. At the moment, there are no solid agreements about workers but there are about import tariffs, for example. If a country does not abide by these, there are tough sanctions.
Van Wijngaarden: “This means that Minister Ploumen must present proposals that are useful to workers very soon. Then she can demonstrate she takes the ‘reset’ and the Breed Handelsberaad (Broad Trade Debate) seriously.”
Publication date 07 02 2017