By Victor Ahiuma-Young, just back from Geneva, Switzerland
GENEVA: THE International Labour Organization, ILO, as part of its just concluded 106th session of the International Labour Conference, ILC, in Geneva, Switzerland, held a unique World of Work Summit to shape a better future for women at work.
L-R: Linda Kromjong, Secretary-General, International Organisation of Employers (IOE), Her Excellency Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of the Republic of Mauritius and the President of Malta, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca
The unique format of the event included the visit of three women Presidents and a high-level panel discussion bringing together the social partners and civil society representatives. “Speaking at the event, ILO Director-General, Mr. Guy Ryder, told the ILO’s world parliament of labour that :“As we work towards our next centenary and the transformations in the world of work intensify, a renewed sense of commitment is needed today to ensure that this better future for women – and men – becomes a reality.
We have to take it as a starting point that equality for women in the workplace will not happen unless bold choices are made, and courageous measures are taken. Women want to be in paid jobs, and these must be decent jobs – not undervalued, not taking place in an environment of discrimination, harassment or violence.”
He also highlighted the economic benefits of such an approach, declaring that: “The ILO report released yesterday, on trends for women, shows that applying the G20 “25 by 25” target – namely reducing the gender gaps in labour market participation by 25 per cent by the year 2025 – to all countries, could increase the global labour force by 204 million, and in turn could increase global GDP by 3.9 per cent. These are figures that cannot be ignored.” “The report, World Employment and Social Outlook (WESO) – Trends for Women 2017 , estimates that if this goal was realized at the global level, it has the potential to add US$ 5.8 trillion to the global economy and increase tax revenue by US$ 1.5 trillion.”
Three women presidents: The President of Malta, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, rejoined the arguments of the ILO’s Director General and called on the global community to take urgent action on gender equality.
According to her: “The global economy will continue to suffer greatly, if women continue to be excluded,” Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said at the ILO’s World of Work Summit.”“She called on the international community to take urgent action “to accelerate gender equality and equitable participation in the economy. Gender inequality is not only a pressing issue of moral significance. It is a challenge of critical importance to our economies.”“Another distinguished guest, Nepal’s President Bidya Devi Bhandari, urged women’s empowerment to promote equal, just and peaceful societies, observing that: “Societies cannot stand a long time on the shaky foundation of discrimination and inequality. Discrimination against women must come to an end for which we all have to put our meaningful efforts. It’s a fact that without political, economic, social and cultural empowerment of women, we cannot imagine the establishment of an equal, just and peaceful society.” “The Nepal’s President was joined by the President of Mauritius, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim who also advocated a better future for women at work.
“The first woman President to lead Mauritius, urged African Member States to eliminate gender inequality and empower women to boost the continent’s development potential through innovative policies that facilitate women’s integration in the workforce.
“Eliminating gender inequality and empowering women could raise the productive potential of one billion Africans, delivering a huge boost to the continent’s development potential,” said Gurib-Fakim in her first address to the ILC.
A recent ILO-Gallup report , based on a survey of 142 countries and territories, shows that women want to work in paid jobs but there remains a significant gap between women’s aspirations and the labour market reality. “The three President’s remarks followed a High-Level Panel discussion on how to shape a better future for women at work.
“The panel addressed the main challenges women face in obtaining decent work, and what is needed to overcome such obstacles.
Panelists included representatives of governments and civil society from ILO member States. ““If women are invisible because they are not seeing as equal and their work are not valued, then it is a crime against humanity,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC.““Education systems need to begin focusing on the combination of hard skills, STEM skills and soft skills to be fostered as early as possible so that more can get engaged in the care economy, not just women but men too.
To get more men involved, we need to raise the status of work in the care economy and make it more attractive,” said Linda Kromjong, Secretary-General, International Organisation of Employers (IOE).
“The Summit was part of the ILO’s Women at Work Initiative, one of the Organization’s seven centenary initiatives, intended to shape a future that works for all.