Statement by Amb. Raychelle Omamo, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Labour, at the 104th Session of the International Labour Conference
I take this opportunity to congratulate you and your Vice Presidents on your well-deserved election to preside over the affairs of the 104thsession of the International Labour Conference. I have no doubt in mind that you will deliver on the mandate of the conference.
The ILO is indeed at a momentous time in its history only a few year’s away from its centenary celebrations but yet faced by enormous and far reaching challenges in the world of work which if not properly understood and appropriately managed, threaten to scuttle the cause of social justice, for which the ILO was founded to address. Fortunately however, the Director General has placed before us a concise and focused report which has identified issues requiring our consideration and direction. We thank him for this work and pledge our contribution as valued partners.
The future of work centenary initiative is a timely andrelevant report, coming indeed two years after the first report which set out the ILO’s long term challenges as it approached the centenary. We welcome the proposed preparatory work to the centenary involving a three stage process and appreciate that it will ultimately give visibility to the Future of Work Initiative and promote the broadest possible political and substantive engagement.
Globalization and technological changes have affected the world of work in ways which were unexpected by many across countries and regions, both in developing and developed countries. The meaning and place of work in society has been lost with many workers still trapped in subsistence and “survival” jobs at a time when others are enjoying great prosperity and progress. Unemployment, underemployment and poverty exist on scales and proportions that invite questions on the continued relevance and legitimacy of the ILO and its tripartite constituency in their quest for social justice.
The quest for decent jobs for all, changes in the organization of work and production, and the governance of work itself are appropriate and timely themes worthy of our deep reflection as we prepare to reposition our organization to face the challenges of the 21st century. The review must of necessity not only focus on ILO but also the tripartite partners including international partners and the entire global community of development institutions down to the regional and national institutions and constituents alike.
Like many other members of the global community, Kenya faces a daunting challenge of mounting unemployment and underemployment largely attributable to the burgeoning youth bulge and the decline inthe tourism sector owing to negative travel advisories issued by key western countries. Faced with lack of income and opportunities, majority of our young people have ended up taking `slave-like’ jobs in Middle Eastern countries under the influence of unscrupulous employment agencies, taking advantage of existing loopholes in our laws.
Arising out of the above challenges, the government has reoriented its economic policy outlook to focus on implementation of public infrastructure projects and programmes with job rich outcomes in energy, road, railway construction and agricultural sectors. To date, the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) construction is already on-going and at its peak,it’s expected to create more than 30,000 jobs. Others are the Lamu South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET), the 4,000 acre Galana Irrigation Project, and the tarmacking of 10,000kmof road network.
The Government has also embarked on a programme of training and recruitment of 21,800 National Youth Service Personnel to carry out public works projects including health and sanitation works in urban, slum and rural areas as well as de-siltation of dams and construction of water reservoirs. Through these programmes, it is expected that youth unemployment will be greatly reduced not to mention the generation of income and therefore aggregate demand to spur economic growth.
The Government has also recently carried out a National Manpower Survey whose results show the available skills and areas of skills shortage.This will inform policy formulation in training and linkage of training curricula with skill needs of the economy.
We concur that due to changes that have taken place in the World of Work, the traditional forms of work as we know it – full time jobs - will sooner or later be a thing of the past, with flexible forms of work including subcontracting and Non-Standard Forms of arrangements, becoming the norm. Under such circumstances, reflections on the Future of Work Initiative must include an evaluation of the implications of these changes for social justice and in particular how our social protection systems will respond to them.
In recognition of these challenges, in Kenya we are in the process of reforming our social protection and social security system with a view of expanding and extending the floors to cover all people, both in and out of employment. To date, the government operates several forms of social assistance programmes including cash transfer to orphans and vulnerable children, the elderly, to persons with severe disabilities and on urban food subsidy programmes.
The Government notes that, a conversation on the governance of work is an integral component of the Future of Work Initiative as it is the engine upon which all programmes and activities of the organization will be based. Towards this end, the government concurs that institutions and tools of governance need to be capacitated to be able to effectively mediate the right balance between the interest of business and those of workers in a context of increasing deregulation by countries, who at the same time are expected to safeguardFundamental Principles and Rights at Work,including decent working conditions.
Finally, in this regard and faced with declining membership base, new forms and mechanisms of organizational representation for workers and employers outside the traditional workplace may need to be considered if representational legitimacy of the social partners is to be retained, as well as the overall future of the institution of tripartism, which is at the heart of the ILO
I thank you