PARIS (Reuters) - Labor ministers from the Group of 20 rich and developing nations vowed on Tuesday to make job creation a priority despite strained public finances and to ensure workers enjoy fundamental rights like health and unemployment benefits.
CoOrganization‘s-day meeting in Paris, G20 ministers promised to implement basic social protection and respect the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) fundamental standards, with the aim of building a balanced globalised economy as the world struggles to emerge from financial crisis.
“This is a strong message, to both our fellow citizens and to the markets,” French Labor Minister Xavier Bertrand said following the meeting to discuss ways of fighting unemployment.
“The context is difficult, and we all need to bring our public finances under control, but that is no reason to neglect employment,” he told reporters.
Achieving consensus had been difficult, Bertrand said, given the different histories and traditions of individual countries within the G20, such as China, India, Russia and Turkey.
But labor ministers agreed over the two days to implement the basic pillars of social protection: access to health, guaranteed revenue for the handicapped and elderly, benefits of dependent minors and income for the unemployed and for poor workers.
In a report published on Monday, the ILO and OECD said that G20 countries still needed to create 20 million jobs in order to return to pre-crisis unemployment levels.
With western economies now teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, raising the threat of a new global downturn, this figure could rise to 40 million as of 2012 if governments do nothing to maintain a nascent recovery in the job market, the report warned [ID:nL5E7KQ186].
Among the hardest-hit, young workers now faced unemployment levels two or three times those of adults, and G20 ministers promised to create a task-force to tackle youth unemployment over the long-term.
“This task force is a guarantee that employment will remain a priority for the G20 even after the end of France’s presidency,” Bertrand said.
G20 heads of state and government are due to gather on November 3 in the southern French resort of Cannes for a summit to mark the end of France’s presidency.
Top of the agenda will be a plan to get the world economy back to healthy growth, but Bertrand said employment and social protection will also be key priorities in order to speak to ordinary citizens worried by a perceived rise in inequality.
“What we want is a globalization that can stand on two legs: economic growth and social justice, free trade and respect for workers rights,” he told reporters.
Reporting By Vicky Buffery; editing by Ron Askew