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In detail: Priorities of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs

December 19, 2016

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Female employment

Globally, women participate in work less than men, and if they are in paid work the quality of their jobs is often worse than that of men’s. Expressed in figures, the labour force participation of women is lower than that of men in all G20 countries. The gap ranges from under 10 per cent in France and Canada to over 30 per cent in many emerging countries (in Germany approximately 11%). Furthermore, women in all G20 countries earn less than men: the gender pay gap in terms of gross hourly wages is higher than 10% in all G20 countries (in Germany approximately 17%) and in some emerging countries higher than 40%. In many G20 emerging countries, at least one in three women is in informal employment. As a result, more often than for men, women's employment histories leave gaps in social security coverage, particularly for old-age pensions. On average, 22% of women in G20 do not receive old age pensions, whereas in some emerging countries the percentage is considerably higher and can reach more than 80%.

The G20 countries lose out on significant growth potential due to the continuing discrimination against women in the labour market. Women now have a higher educational level than men in all G20 countries. They are more likely than men to graduate from secondary school or university. The G20 advanced economies are under pressure to increase their supply of labour due to demographic change. In the emerging countries, the challenge is to take full advantage of the entire potential of the workforce to promote social and economic development.

The G20 have recognised this. Under the Australian Presidency in 2014 they committed to reducing the gender labour force participation gap between men and women by 25 percent by 2025. That would lead to an increase of an additional 100 million women in the workforce. However, this target is considered to be difficult to achieve at this point. Therefore we will give this issue a new impetus under the German G20 Presidency by focussing on the quality of female employment. The aim is to agree on policy recommendations in the following areas

  • improving women's income and career opportunities
  • reducing pay differentials
  • reducing the proportion of women with jobs in low pay employment, and in the informal sector
  • improving reconciliation of career and family for woman and men and reducing involuntary part-time jobs for women

In the framework of these recommendations, G20 partners should also acknowledge that stereotypes and prejudices about female employment and the distribution of family responsibilities between men and women should be further actively combatted. The G20 should also emphasize the central role of the social partners both at association and company level in improving the quality of female employment.

Integrating migrants and refugees into the labour market.

With approximately 244 million migrants and 16.1 million international refugees, the world is currently experiencing the largest migration and displacement since the Second World War. More than half of all migrants - about 137 million - are currently living in G20 countries. Nearly one-third of the international refugees from crisis areas around the world have received humanitarian protection in G20 countries. The majority of them has found shelter in 11 of the G20 States: Turkey, for example, has taken in 2.5 million people, followed by Germany, Russia, China and the United States (figures from the UNHCR from the end of 2015).

The G20 countries face very different challenges concerning the labour market integration of migrants and recognized refugees. Every country has a different labour market situation. The question of whether people are refugees or have voluntarily left their home country looking for a better job or better living conditions is an essential one. Another specific group are returning migrants, that is to say people who return to their home country after training or working abroad.

The need for action on how to better use the potential of migration was already clearly stated during the G20 Presidencies of Turkey (2015) and China (2016). At their 2016 summit in Hangzhou, the Heads of State and Government confirmed that well-managed labour migration can be an asset for the economy and society. By 2018, the United Nations would like to achieve comprehensive agreements on migration ("Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration") and refugees ("Global Compact on Refugees"). This was agreed at a UN summit of the Heads of State and Government on refugees and migration held in September 2016. Also in September 2016, 49 countries (including Germany) committed to placing one million additional refugees in employment at a special summit convened by US President Obama.

During Germany's Presidency we want to follow up on these commitments and declarations, and work out concrete policy principles for an effective and fair integration of migrants and refugees into the labour market. Our goal is to improve future prospects for migrants and refugees in the countries of the G20 through a common understanding of the challenges and proposed solutions, and thus to counteract social exclusion. It should also be emphasised that successful labour market integration brings benefits for the economy and society of the respective host country - for example, with a view to the shortage of skilled labour in some countries.

Sustainable supply chains

About 70 percent of global trade is organised in global supply and production chains. This means that individual production steps are completed in different locations in different countries. Between 1995 and 2013, the number of jobs related to global supply chains increased by more than 50 percent. Today, around 453 million jobs are directly dependent on the global interconnection of production activities. Supply chains are thus an important motor for jobs and global growth. At the same time, production facilities in low-income countries are often prone to exploitation, precarious employment practices and hazardous working conditions. The collapse of the textile factory Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in April 2013 killing more than 1.100 people made this very clear. All of us - governments, businesses and consumers - are therefore responsible for seeing labour, social and environmental standards being implemented effectively around the world. The implementation of decent work in supply chains is an essential requirement for making globalisation fairer, ecologically sound and socially just.

During the German G7 Presidency in 2015, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development put the issue of better working conditions in supply chains on the global agenda. With the agreement "Action for Fair Production", the G7 labour and employment ministers initiated concrete steps.

One of them is the establishment of the "Vision Zero Fund" at the International Labour Organisation (ILO). It is a global prevention fund that will support measures to improve occupational safety and health in low-income countries. The Fund is supported by a broad alliance of G7 governments, trade unions and employers. It depends on donors from both the public and private sectors. A pilot project was started in June 2016 in Myanmar with the support of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

In their Leaders' communiques of 2015 and 2016, the G20 Heads of State and Government identified sustainable global supply chain management, and in particular occupational health and safety, as joint challenges. Concrete steps are now needed. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will follow up on the following points within the G20:

  • improvement of working conditions along global supply chains
  • support for the Vision Zero Fund by the G20
  • support to initiatives to establish living wages along global supply chains
  • guidance for companies in terms of responsible and transparent supply chain management as well as the application of corporate due diligence
  • strengthening of complaint mechanisms in case of violations of labour and social standards.

Future of work

The digital revolution is creating new technological foundations and opportunities for cooperation between workers and between humans and machines, as well as for production, organisation of companies, and the distribution of goods and services. Globalisation - with the help of the internet - has expanded the scope of action of businesses and workers alike in recent decades, enabling cross-border trade and communication. Demographic changes influence which people with which skills can participate in society's value creation now and in the future. The continuing cultural and social changes are transforming consumer behaviour and relationships. It has a decisive influence on which innovations are accepted and can establish themselves, and which fall by the wayside.

Together, these developments open up many opportunities for work to be different in the future - more productive, flexible, interconnected, and international. At the same time, these opportunities also produce pressure to change, adjust and innovate. Both individuals and companies must react to this. This is why it is so important for governments to work together with all key actors in society to shape this process.

In the framework of the G20, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs wants to find answers and identify measures that ensure social progress in which every individual can participate (also in the future). We need to prepare for the future of work and employment in areas such as initial and further training, social security and participation of the social partners, ensuring decent employment conditions for all.

An important frame of reference is the United Nations' Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, in particular SDG 8 to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all". The German G20 Presidency offers the opportunity to discuss national strategies such as the dialogue process "Work 4.0" with international partners and connect them with international projects such as the ILO's "Future of Work Centenary Initiative" and the new OECD Jobs Strategy.

Our goal is to prepare G20 labour markets with their different framework conditions for the future of work. To do so we aim to come to acknowledgements with the following priorities:

  • Maintaining and strengthening individual employability - particularly through lifelong learning and education and training for workers and employees
  • Ensuring comprehensive access to social security, including own-account workers, reflecting the increasing diversity of occupations and employment,
  • Fair and flexible work arrangements, e.g. regarding working time and workplace, which are jointly negotiated with the social partners.