Opening remarks G20 Labour and Employment meeting

Good afternoon everybody and welcome to this, the fifth meeting of G20 Labour and Employment Ministers here in Melbourne, Australia.

Representing two-thirds of the world’s population, 85 per cent of the world’s economic activity, we have a duty and an opportunity to review progress on some of the major job challenges facing the globe and to coordinate our next steps as government representatives.

Our nations have taken a wide range of measures over the past five years to strengthen jobs growth and to assist our communities to adapt to continually changing circumstances.

The results of these reforms are starting to come through. But the recovery is patchy—it is not widespread.

We have a way to go to achieve job-rich, strong, sustainable and balanced economic growth.

And it is the labour and employment perspective to this growth challenge that we are here to discuss over the next two days.

Job creation has been picking up in some G20 countries. Unemployment rates have fallen in most parts, including amongst youth. And the number of people living on extremely low incomes, by global standards, has also continued to decline.

As a result, many more people have been able to experience the dignity of work and improve their circumstances. However, low growth is seeing elevated levels of unemployment and under-employment continuing.

Along with sound macro-economic policy settings, structural reforms must play their part in strengthening economic growth, opening up new opportunities for job seekers and providing suitable protections.

The priorities of Australia’s G20 presidency are to achieve practical outcomes around two key themes. First, promoting stronger economic growth and employment by empowering the private sector and secondly, making the global economy more resilient to deal with future shocks.

Employment, social protection and human resource development policies are a major factor in achieving these outcomes. We need to approach these challenges and opportunities over a variety of horizons.

Addressing the short-term, while setting up for the medium to long-term.

The general theme for this meeting is preventing structural unemployment and creating better jobs and boosting participation.

G20 leaders commissioned the development of country-owned, country-specific Employment Plans at the St Petersburg summit last year.

The Taskforce on Employment has been coordinating the development of these plans, which provide an opportunity for government to outline their medium-term policy agendas and to help shape the future through new commitments to action.

Shortly, we will review our progress on these Employment Plans and the policy courses we are taking.

Part of the challenges we face are structural in nature - long-term unemployment, or under-employment, rising in many cases, and skills mismatches emerging.

This makes it more difficult to place people in jobs as growth strengthens.

Our policy levers have an important role in supporting the structural transformation of our economies as job patterns change over time.  

We need an adaptable workforce but also an enabling environment for businesses to create jobs. The private sector has the primary role in creating jobs. And it is important that unnecessary impediments to business expansion and hiring are addressed and that we have sound policy and regulatory frameworks in place.

Informality is a dominant feature of many labour markets in the G20. Informal jobs can provide workers with a buffer against unemployment but it also brings risks.

The continuation of forced and child labour is particularly concerning and we need to do more to respond to these issues.

One of the best ways to support growth is to empower people to participate in the workforce. Many women want to contribute more to economic life than they are able to at the moment. Progress has been made in closing gender gaps in labour market outcomes, but substantial differences remain.

Greater female labour supply, coupled with demand side strategies, would add impetus to economic growth. Addressing the impediments to their participation offers substantial economic and social dividends.

The G20 has been making some progress in supporting young people. Youth unemployment has continued to come down from the peaks reached following the global financial crisis. However, unemployment remains high and long-term unemployment is rising.

The World Bank tells us that six hundred million young people are neither working nor studying. We should consider what further steps we can take to help young people make the transition from school into further education or work.

To conclude, given the scale and nature of the challenges we face, continued international action is needed to boost economic growth and employment.

We have diverse views regarding responses to the challenges and opportunities facing our countries but we are all committed to taking practical steps togenerate lasting employment opportunities.

The G20 is a dynamic and effective forum. If the largest economies can individually address the job challenges faced and can co-operate to achieve higher global growth and employment, then every economy benefits.

I welcome you again to Australia and look forward to a valuable discussion over the next one-and-a-half days.

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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