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Globalization/social regulation

Published on September 28, 2011
Joint article by Xavier Bertrand, Minister for Labour, Employment and Health, and Ursula von der Leyen, German Minister for Labour and Social Affairs, published in the “Le Monde” newspaper

Paris, September 24, 2011
Employment must be a G20 priority if globalization is to take account of social issues

As the global economic crisis has shown us, we can no longer make do with regulating globalization solely at the economic and financial level.

We must establish social regulation of globalization. This is the aim of the French presidency of the G20 (the group of the 20 largest industrialized and emerging countries). The G20 accounts for 85% of the world’s GDP and two-thirds of its population: it is the legitimate authority to make proposals and provide the necessary impetus.

In consultation with Germany, the 2011 French G20 presidency has called for the summit not only to address economic and financial issues, but also commit itself to social issues. This is why the G20 labour and employment ministers’ meeting taking place in Paris on 26 and 27 September will be a milestone. We have to take up the challenge of ensuring that globalization creates the conditions both for economic growth and social progress. Three points seem essential to us in this respect:

1. Social policies must be permanently included on the G20 agenda.
In France as in Germany, our social welfare systems have done their job as automatic stabilizers to cushion the effects of the crisis. Active labour market policies, effective placement measures, companies’ internal flexibility, and targeted investment in initial and ongoing training are necessary to contribute to the economic recovery.

Yet, until now, the essential role of labour and social affairs policy in overcoming the crisis has been pushed into the background. We want to change this. We would like the G20 labour and employment ministers’ meetings to continue regularly beyond the French presidency: if we want to go on making progress, we need a permanent framework for discussion.

2. Employment is a priority, particularly the fight against youth unemployment.

We are aware that the situations of our employment markets within the G20 are different. The fact remains that providing jobs for our countries’ young people is a concern we all share: it means providing them with the assurance that they can make a life for themselves, make plans and help build their country’s future.

We will draw inspiration from what works. In Germany, work-based learning has proven its worth. France, in turn, has just launched a plan to develop work-based learning: it is in the interests of young people, who receive training by learning a trade, and it is also in the interests of the company, because it trains employees it can later keep.

In order to combat youth unemployment, sharing experience and good practice is essential. That is why, in the G20 framework, France and Germany together support the establishment of a working group dedicated to youth employment.

Looking at what is being done by the Netherlands and Austria, where the rate of youth unemployment is the lowest in the European Union; learning lessons from the work of the International Labour Organization, whose Director-General now takes part in G20 summits on President Nicolas Sarkozy’s initiative: these will help us find practical solutions for employing young people in our countries.

3. We must strengthen dialogue between employers and unions in the framework of the G20 process.

We are already conducting this dialogue at national level. In Germany, smooth cooperation between those representing employees’ and employers’ interests has become the distinguishing feature of a social market economy. During the crisis, this has proven to be a decisive advantage. Employers, unions and political leaders have been capable of important joint decisions, to be taken shortly.

In France, the law on the renewal of social democracy, passed in 2008, has enabled the dialogue between employers and unions to be thoroughly modernized. In this new context, important interprofessional agreements have been signed: for example, on youth employment, unemployment insurance and supplementary pensions.

Employers and unions are highly familiar with our labour markets, with employees’ expectations and with employers’ needs: that is why we were keen to involve them at each stage of this G20 presidency, both ahead of the conference of G20 labour ministers and before the meeting of heads of state and government in November.
Moreover, for the first time, a summit of G20 unions – the L20 – will take place on the sidelines of the summit of heads of state and concurrently with the summit of employers’ representatives, the B20.

We support these initiatives, because we believe employers and unions have a full role to play in the global governance currently being created.

In the face of a crisis that has shaken our societies, we must provide credible responses. Franco-German friendship has often been an engine of Europe; we think it can also be an engine of this G20, to promote shared social beliefs. Together, we are opting for responsibility and solidarity, in order to meet the expectations of our countries’ citizens./.

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