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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

26 September 2023

ESCAP ES

Very good morning to distinguished participants, colleagues and friends,

I am very pleased to welcome you all to this event, which marks the launch of UNU-WIDER’s synthesis report “Towards peace, decent work and greater equality.”

As you know we are in the mid-point review of SDGs just halfway through and as already widely known that we are off track on all 17 SDG goals. Therefore, how to accelerate the implementation of SDGs on the second halfway towards 2030 in which twelve high impact initiatives were actually not initiated but all initiatives are ongoing initiatives. All the twelve high impact initiatives are being ramp up further accelerated and one of the high impact initiatives is on jobs, especially decent work and social protection.

This report is very timely, very important and we can look at the recommendations how we can accelerate decent work and also at the same time social protection if I may just refer quickly to a few of the highlights in the report.

As highlighted in the report, the pandemic prompted an unprecedented policy focus on social protection. In part, this is due to the lack of adequate relief and social safety nets when earnings came to a standstill. Especially as we experienced during the Pandemic. Therefore, the report provides a comprehensive and insightful synopsis of the challenges and opportunities facing developing countries in achieving decent work for all and building fairer societies.

It shows that decent work and fairer societies are not just morally desirable, but they are essential for economic prosperity and social stability.

It also identifies a number of key policy priorities for achieving these goals, including investing in education and training, expanding social protection coverage, promoting gender equality and empowering women, these are among the few of the recommendations.

From our side Asia and Pacific and especially ESCAP we also highlight that success in our region in achieving the 2030 Agenda depends on a healthy, protected and productive workforce.

As people of working age make up two-thirds of the region’s population and more than half of the global labour force, social protection and decent work are essential for sustainable development, and they are mutually reinforcing.

Social protection can help to improve workers’ productivity and competitiveness, while decent work can help to increase workers’ contributions to social protection schemes. So, these two ways mutually reinforcing.

We also identified a number of challenges to achieving social protection and decent work in the region.

These include:

•         High levels of informal employment whereby two out of three or two thirds’ people in our region are employed in the informal sector, still, that is the case, and more than half the region’s population lacks any form of social protection. Also, this is still the case.

•         Our region is the most exposed region to climate-induced natural disasters. So, disasters already. We are all vulnerable to disaster but with the climate change this disaster being further exacerbated and more importantly also the impact that felt especially on the vulnerable people.

•         Digital transformation is also disrupting the labour markets. While it creates new jobs, it is also making many jobs obsolete. Workers must be equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the digital economy. These are the potential but at the same time we need to invest, re-skill our workforce. Also, to be able to benefit from this digital transformation.

•         Additionally, governments in many developing countries have limited fiscal resources to invest in social protection as well as decent work.

Therefore, to address these issues, our research advocates developing normative frameworks and dedicated institutions, which include a rights-based approach to pro-equality policies and promoting meaningful participation.

This should be complemented with improved access to decent jobs through active labour market policies, which should be synergized with social protection efforts.

Towards broadening social protection coverage, it is important to ensure adequate resource allocation and to capitalize on regional cooperation while also building adaptive systems and leveraging emerging digital technologies.

Just to reiterate, as a Regional Commission, we also facilitate advocate cross-country collaboration as well as regional cooperation collaboration because no country can do it alone, including in this very important topic. 

Colleagues and friends,

I would also like to take this opportunity once again to thank Kunal, UNU-WIDER for partnering with ESCAP for this event and for their important work on this topic.

Again, looking forward to the presentation as well as the ensuing discussion and what we can learn, more importantly, what recommendation we can take forward to really accelerate ramp up this decent work as well as social protection in our region.

Thank you very much.

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