Employment in the year 2021
G20 Summit

Employment in the year 2021

Guy Ryder, director-general of the International Labour Organization charts the major accomplishments of the ILO’s first 100 years and outlines the path for the coming century


For the past century, the world’s governments, workers and employers have come together at the International Labour Organization with a common goal to promote social justice and decent work. During these 100 years, the world of work has changed profoundly. The ILO has adopted 189 conventions and 205 recommendations that set out fundamental rights and form the basis for national legislation on such issues as freedom of association, forced labour and maternity protection.

These international norms have had a direct impact on the lives of millions of people around the world. While there is still much to do, workers today are unquestionably better off than they were 100 years ago. The 80-hour week is a thing of the past, workplaces are safer and the importance of access to universal social protection has become recognised.

The ILO at the G20

The ILO plays a significant role in supporting the G20. Successive G20 presidencies have called upon us to provide technical input not only to the Employment Working Group, but also to other work streams that inform the leaders’ communiqué.

The ILO’s leadership on the future of work has facilitated our deepening engagement with the G20, building on our normative contributions and global tripartite perspective. Under Germany’s presidency in 2017, we provided technical inputs on working conditions on digital labour platforms. Last year under Argentina’s presidency, the ILO provided technical input on the emergence of new business models and the growth of the platform economy, strengthening social protection in the future of work and reskilling and upskilling.

Work for a Brighter Future, the report of the ILO’s independent Global Commission on the Future of Work, urges the adoption of a human-centred agenda for growth and development. It received worldwide attention, including among G20 members. The ILO has provided technical support for the Japanese presidency’s priorities on that basis, within Japan’s overall theme of realising and promoting an inclusive and sustainable society. Indeed, the Employment Working Group has chosen as its theme a human-centred agenda for the future of work, focusing on ageing, new forms of work and gender equality.

At the request of Japan’s presidency, the ILO has drafted several papers for the Employment Working Group on each of these themes. Our paper on ageing highlights policies for a multi-stage life approach for a longer working life. The paper on the long-term care sector urges investing in the care economy to generate decent jobs. The paper on the international governance of platform work identifies cross-border regulatory issues and the difficulties of resolving all of them at a national level. All three areas correlate with significant drivers and challenges in the future of work identified by the Global Commission.

This year’s reports on gender equality follow reports in previous years that facilitate the monitoring of progress towards the 2014 Brisbane Summit’s goal to reduce the gender labour force participation gap by 25% by 2025. Japan’s presidency intends to submit the ILO report A Quantum Leap for Gender Equality to the sherpas and then to the leaders, to emphasise the importance of realising the Brisbane goal as one of the key drivers of gender equality.

In 2017, G20 labour ministers called upon several international organisations – the ILO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Organization for Migration, and UNICEF, under the umbrella of Alliance 8.7 – to report on child labour, forced labour and human trafficking in global supply chains. The report will be ready in the second half of 2019.

Several G20 members have urged Japan to place the report and the overall issue on the agenda of the G20 labour and employment ministers meeting in Matsuyama in September.

In other G20 work streams, last year our participation in the Framework Working Group helped lead to the G20 Menu of Policy Options for the Future of Work. It includes finding the fiscal space for realising universal social protection systems and for supporting the skilling and reskilling that must occur in a world of rapid technological change. In addition, the ILO has provided technical inputs to the Development Working Group and the Climate Sustainability Working Group. This year the ILO is providing inputs to the Framework Working Group on the issue of ageing and the implications of emerging labour shortages for economic growth and macroeconomic policies. We are also active in the Development Working Group on issues of quality infrastructure and human capital development.