Labour Minister’s speech at ILO Conference on “A New Era of Social Justice”

Following is the text of the Speech of Union Minister for Labour & Employment Shri Mallikarjun Kharge at the International Labour Conference 100th Session, 2011 in Geneva today on Report of the Director General- A New Era of Social Justice:

Mr. Chairperson,

We welcome the Director Generals™ Report on a ˜New Era of Social Justice™ in this historic 100th Session of the ILC. The Report provides a good opportunity to all member states of ILO for deliberating on the need for a strong social dimension to globalization in achieving improved and fair outcomes enshrined in the Decent Work Agenda.

Ensuring social sustainability of growth is a universal challenge today. Rapid growth and urbanization have contributed to increased inequalities and imbalances. Improving public services delivery particularly education and health, better targeting of subsidies, ensuring employment opportunities and economic support for women and marginalized sections of society are all needed to ensure social sustainability of growth. The world is now witnessing a major shift in policies inspired by a vision of sustainable development and inclusive growth in economies, enterprises, workplaces and ultimately in society.

India is also working towards implementing the commitment towards social progress, economic growth and increased engagement with nations around the world in a most effective and determined manner. We have pursued a strategy of seeking inclusive growth at home and inclusive globalization internationally that benefits the have-nots and reduces disparities.

We have enacted laws that guarantee the Right to Employment and Right to Education. We now propose to introduce a legislation giving our citizens the Right to Food. A superstructure of development has been built on this foundation of investment in human capabilities. Our policies have aimed to empower socially, educationally and economically weaker sections of our society.

The Report has highlighted the fact that the goal of more and better jobs remains a distant reality aggravated by the global crisis. In this context we would like to point out that the generation of adequate work opportunities for our growing labour force has been one of the central objectives of India™s development planning since its very inception. We have long recognized that productive employment is not merely a means to the ultimate end of economic development but also a direct and effective method of poverty alleviation. On the whole we have been reasonably successful in our efforts to generate adequate employment opportunities for the vast majority of informal workers in the rural areas through implementation of the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act). In response to the global economic slowdown we undertook a massive fiscal stimulus programme that helped maintain reasonable growth. We are constantly working towards reducing the fiscal and revenue deficits, increasing public investment and cutting down on wasteful expenditure.

Our Government has launched a massive programme for skill development and technical training. A new National Skill Development Initiative has been launched to empower all individuals through improved skills, knowledge, nationally and internationally recognized qualifications to gain access to decent employment and ensure India™s competitiveness in the global market. India has set a target of creating 500 million skilled workers by 2022.

Social protection is an investment which enhances the productivity of workers in the long run. India has launched a massive campaign to provide basic healthcare facilities to workers in the unorganized sector who comprise of 94 per cent of the workforce in India through its ambitious and successfully running flagship programme RSBY (Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana). Labour Welfare Funds have been set up and the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act 2008 has been introduced to provide social protection measures to the informal sector workers.

We endorse the concept of Social Protection Floor but each country should decide the level of its Social Protection Floor. A uniform Social Security Floor cannot be prescribed for all countries and there should not be any fixed timelines. Social Protection Floor should be closely linked to the country™s financial resources, size of informal sector, employment strategy and other social policies. In India we are moving from ˜scheme based™ to ˜rights based™ social security entitlements.

We agree that the Global Jobs Pact has been instrumental in meeting the challenges posed by the financial crisis. It has helped member states of ILO to accelerate employment creation and jobs recovery through well regulated trade and markets that benefit all. However, the momentum has to be carried further. We need to shape policies that produce high levels of growth with decent work outcomes

We endorse the point made in the report that investment in labour regulations and emphasis on tripartite dialogue are essential components of the Decent Work Agenda that help to make growth more effective, the approach of India with regard to International Labour Standards has always been positive. The ILO instruments have provided guidelines and useful framework for the evolution of legislative and administrative measures for the protection and advancement of the interests of workers.

Mr Chairperson, India has great faith in principles and practices of ILO. The time has now come for all member states of ILO to pledge their support to ensure policy coherence for a social dimension in globalisation with decent work as the overriding policy objective.

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