The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has called on governments to proritise social justice, as workers across the globe celebrate 2023 Workers Day.
The ILO Director-General, Mr Gilbert Houngbo, made the call in a statement to mark the International Workers Day, on Monday in Abuja.
He said: “This is a moment for pride, celebration and hope. After three years of the COVID-19 crisis followed by inflation, conflict, and food and fuel supply shocks, we badly need this.
“But the promises of renewal made during the pandemic, of ‘building back better’, have so far not been delivered for the great majority of workers worldwide.
“Globally, real wages have fallen, poverty is rising, inequality seems more entrenched than ever.
“Enterprises have been hard-hit. Many could not cope with the cumulative effects of recent unexpected events. Small and micro-enterprises were particularly affected, and many have ceased operations,” he said.
Houngbo said that people felt that the sacrifices they made to get through COVID-19 had not been recognised and rewarded.
“Their voices are not being heard clearly enough. This, combined with a perceived lack of opportunities, has created a disturbing level of mistrust.
“It doesn’t have to be like this. We are still the masters of our fate, but if we are to shape a new, more stable and equitable world, we must choose a different path – one that prioritises social justice,” he said.
The ILO boss said that social justice was not only achievable but also essential for a sustainable future.
“How do we get there? First and foremost, our policies and actions must be human-centred.
“This is to allow people to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, economic security and equal opportunity.
“This approach is not new, it was set out and agreed in the aftermath of World War Two, when the ILO’s international membership signed the 1944 Declaration of Philadelphia.
“This visionary document set out guiding principles for our economic and social systems, that they should not be turned exclusively to hitting specific growth rates or other statistical targets but to address human needs and aspirations,’’ he said.
According to Houngbo, this means focusing on equality, poverty alleviation and core social protection.
He said that the most effective way to do this would be by providing quality jobs – decent job for all – so that people could support themselves and build their own future.
“It means realistically addressing the long-term structural transformations of our time; ensuring that new technology creates and supports employment; pro-actively facing the challenges of climate change and ensuring we offer the jobs, skills training.
“Others are transition support necessary for workers and businesses to benefit from the new low-carbon era; treating demographic changes as a ‘dividend’ rather than a problem.
“This is with supporting action on skills, migration and social protection to create more cohesive and resilient societies.
“We also need to reassess and re-fashion the architecture of our social and economic systems so that they support this change of course towards social justice rather than continuing to channel us into a policy ‘doom loop’ of inequality and instability,’’ he said.
He urged that all should reinvigorate labour institutions and organsations for social dialogue to be effective and vigorous.
He also said that there was need to review laws and regulations affecting work in order for them to be relevant, up-to-date and able to protect workers and support sustainable businesses.
According to him, to make all this happen, governments need to recommit to international cooperation and solidarity.
“We must enhance our efforts and create greater policy coherence, particularly within the multilateral system, as the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres calls it.
“This is why we need a global coalition for social justice.”
He said that the coalition would create a platform to bring together a broad range of international bodies and stakeholders.
“It will position social justice as the keystone of the global recovery so that it is prioritised in national, regional and global policies and actions.
“It will ensure that our future is human-centred.
“We have the chance to reshape the world we live in – economically, socially and environmentally.
“Let us take this opportunity and move forward to build the equitable and resilient societies that can underpin lasting peace and social justice, ’’ he said.