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Tunisia: Employment must be at the heart of macro-economic policy, says Regional Director of ILO

Charles Dan, ILO Regional Director for Africa whom we met during works of the international seminar held recently in Tunis to discuss “social justice and fight against exclusion in a context of democratic transition,” tells us the importance of youth’s employment as a condition of economic revival and a social emergency.

Interview:

In your remarks, you noted that the rate of unemployment in North Africa continues to be one of the highest in the world in 2009, at 9.9% in 2009 and an estimated 9.8% in 2010. This high rate is mainly the result of an extremely high rate of youth’s unemployment. Is there any practical approach by the ILO to address this problem?

If we are today at the opening of this international seminar in Tunis, it is precisely because of the Revolution of Jasmine that was not born from nothing.

Instead, it was born from a deep sense of social injustice. This sense of injustice that is experienced not only in Tunisia but in other countries is the result of a situation where there has been a growth without employment, that is to say that the very purpose of economic policy is economic growth that does not bear fruit effectively for populations or for individuals in terms of poverty reduction and job creation.

That’s why we recommend, at the ILO, our approach.

We believe now that employment must be at the heart of macro-economic policy and it should not be considered simply as a consequence, a result of a macroeconomic policy. It should be seen as an objective in itself of a macro-economic policy. This means that we must set concrete targets in terms of job creation in macroeconomic policies

But how?

This also requires revision of development policies. This means that on sectoral policies, for example, agricultural policy, we must analyze its impact on job creation and even in the defense and security policy, since ministries of the defense policy in our countries are also job creators.

We must measure their impact in terms of job creation, but we think it is necessary to go further, because if we talk of decent work in the ILO, it is because job in itself is not enough.

Employment must be accompanied by social protection. We can not expect a development without increased productivity of a population. And at the same time, we can not expect high productivity of the population by leaving it in a state of social vulnerability.

Productivity is associated with social protection. Therefore, at the ILO, we now recommend to consider spending in social security and social protection as an investment in productivity and human development, not just as a cost.

How to achieve that?

We believe at the ILO that one of the prime means is a better aspect of freedom of association, collective bargaining, fundamental rights of workers and social dialogue. Because, by establishing a national debate, we can arrive at solutions.

How do you then try to disseminate this approach internationally?

It must be said that we have all experienced the consequences of the international crisis that emerged in September 2008. It is in this context and at the ILO, we have adopted a global pact for employment, which means that all members of the International Labour Organisation have joined together and have now decided to consider employment as a top priority of government policy but also the social partners in the world.

At the African level, the members met in December 2009 in Ouagadougou and they decided that the best instruments to implement this international pact every African country should adopt a Country Programme for Decent Work.

It shows that the best approach to fight against poverty is the creation of productive employment. Moreover, we have 31 country programs for decent work in Africa and we are in negotiations in 22 African countries including Tunisia with the social partners for the adoption of a Country Programme for Decent Work which will establish a road map to define together the best possible policies for the fight against poverty

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