Regional Employment Forum: Promoting Job Rich and Sustainable Growth in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine

Oct 28, 2015

Niels Scott, Head of the UNDP in Georgia welcomes participants of the conference. Photo: Vladimer Valishvili/UNDP

The regional conference on jobs and employment had a prominent start in Tbilisi, Georgia, on 28 October 2015. The two-day forum which looks into the ways to boost employment in the region ensuring inclusive and  sustainable growth of the national labour markets, brought together more than 130 delegates from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

The conference is organised by a group of international organizations including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Bank Group, International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Swiss Cooperation Office (SCO).

The forum was opened by the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili on October 28, 2015.

Addressing the delegates at an opening session, Rastislav Vrbensky, Manager of the UNDP Regional Hub for Europe and the CIS, said:

“Full and productive employment for all is one of the new Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted last month by the member states of the United Nations. Getting people back to work is a complex issue that requires a strong commitment from governments, civil society and communities. It is not just about creating jobs. It is about building societies which are based on the principles of social justice and equity, where social concerns are integrated with environmental challenges, and where everyone, equally and inclusively, can contribute to the prosperity of their families, communities and countries. UNDP welcomes the opportunity provided by this workshop to work together – with governments, private sector, civil society and other development partners – to look for innovative solutions. This is a dialogue which must continue if we are to meet the employment challenge: none of us can meet it alone.”

In the next two days, the conference participants will look into the root causes of the employment challenge in the six participating countries and will discuss innovative approaches for developing national labour markets placing employment and the transition to sustainable green economies in the centre of the policy dialogue. Plenary sessions and discussions will be chaired by the senior officials of the United Nations and World Bank.

In the next two days, the conference participants will look into the root causes of the employment challenge in the six participating countries and will discuss innovative approaches for developing national labour markets placing employment and the transition to sustainable green economies in the centre of the policy dialogue. Plenary sessions and discussions will be chaired by the senior officials of the United Nations and World Bank.

Andrew Mason, World Bank Practice Manager for Social Protection & Labor, said:

“Jobs are a strategic priority for the World Bank, especially in the Europe and Central Asia region. Our diagnostic work shows that jobs are the most important factor in enabling households to come out of poverty and benefit from economic growth -- which is what the concept of shared prosperity is about. Our regional report “Back to Work” pointed out some prerequisites for success: maintaining a sound macro and fiscal framework; putting in place a favourable regulatory environment for the private sector to grow and create jobs; and preparing workers to take up these new jobs – through education that focuses on skills relevant to the labour market; and also through fiscal and social policies that encourage people to be active in the formal labour market and to be flexible in moving to sectors and regions where the jobs are.  This conference brings us together to identify the specific challenges in these areas, and more importantly, to strengthen our partnerships for the way forward.”

The first day of the employment forum on 28 October 2015 included an in-depth discussion on the ways to grow more and better jobs in the region in partnership with the private sector and on the role of state services in developing a qualified workforce. The presenters stressed the importance of aligning employment strategies with national development agendas in each of the countries, and placed special emphasis on the improved environment for business as a key precondition for creating jobs.

The forum participants discussed the role of public employment services (PESs) that are not directly involved in creating jobs but undertake an important function in the development of labour markets while managing market information and assessing and matching skills gaps. In combination with the other state services, such as healthcare, education and social assistance, the PESs are critical for creating an inclusive environment for the increased employment.

Olivier Bürki, Regional Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office for the South Caucasus, said:

“Many developing and transition countries are struggling with high unemployment. The root cause of it is that many people, especially young ones, are unable to find work that matches their skills. Switzerland has a long tradition of supporting such countries in creating more job opportunities and ensuring secure and dignified future for the people. Using the elements of its own vocational education and training system, Switzerland has taken on a leading role in developing vocation and training systems in different parts of the world to help address high rates of unemployment. Key efforts include upgrading vocational education and training, improving learning content and methods, training teachers and bridging the gap between theory and practice in the curriculum. Switzerland, acting through its development agency, joins these shared efforts to address unemployment in partner countries.”

The second day of the conference, 29 October, will see the discussions about skills development strategies and vocational education and training, especially in the new up-and-running areas of economy. Special attention will be paid to the complex multi-sector approaches to employment in view of the transition to low-carbon sustainable development patterns.

As Heinz Koller, Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said in his speech:

“Current demographic trends bring 40 million people to the labour market each year, meaning that between now and the year 2030 the world economy needs to create around 600 million new jobs. Current and forecast growth rates do not leave us to expect much improvement. The world of work is characterized today by what the Director-General of the ILO recently described as a “widespread insecurity” under which reliable and protected full-time employment is no longer the rule. Amongst salaried workers worldwide, only one in four are working fulltime. All over the world, the middle-class has been squeezed with incomes stagnating, if not decreasing.  Informality is one of main feature of today’s world of work insecurity. Globally, half of the labour force is working and producing in the informal economy. Let me recall here the adoption, last June by the International Labour Conference, of Recommendation No. 204 on transition from the informal to formal economy, which has constituted an important milestone for hundreds of millions of workers all over the world.”

Among the participants of the conference were representatives of the governments, private sector and civil society from the six participating countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as international employment experts.

The results of the forum were summarised by Ad Melkert, prominent Dutch politician of the 1990s and senior World Bank and United Nations official in different years.

The first regional employment forum in Tbilisi, Georgia closed on 29 October 2015.

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