IOE examines the issues facing the Italian G20 Presidency to successfully build back better.
Today (1 December), Italy takes over the G20 Presidency. The urgent need for deep collaboration remains among the leading economies of the world to address the health, economic and employment impact of Covid-19. The response to the immediate crisis will continue to be a central priority for the Italian G20 with many countries currently in some form of lockdown due to a devastating second wave of the pandemic. However, we must also address the longer-term issues of making economies and labour markets sustainably successful. “Building back better” has become the mantra over the last nine months. This will not happen automatically but will require a clear and bold vision. What should this new normal look like, and what are the determined and ambitious reforms required to get there. Bringing the world back to work and putting economies on a sustainable growth-path must be the key focus for this G20-Presidency.
Agenda of change action plan
Most priorities for this agenda for change are not necessarily new, but rather have not received in the past the attention they should have, such as supporting entrepreneurship and innovation. The birth of new enterprises plays a crucial role in job creation, making entrepreneurship a key driver for employment, economic growth and inclusion. The G20 agreed already in 2016 on an entrepreneurship action plan, but never followed-up on it. Attention must be refocused to ensure proper implementation of that action plan, ensuring economic opportunities for all – irrespective of gender, ethnicity or age.
Added to this is the challenge of informality. Informality has been the elephant in the room for many, many years, but is rarely tackled with concrete measures. The pandemic has highlighted again the vulnerability of workers and employers in the informal economy, re-emphasising the urgent need to create conducive framework conditions for companies to be set up in the formal economy, to hire and grow in the formal economy, and to fully contribute to the developments of societies and economies. With International Labour Organization recommendation 204, we have a global tripartite consensus on what needs to be done. Now is the time to walk the talk.
Covid-19 has shown the importance of effective and efficient social protection systems. We cannot allow that crises such as the current pandemic end up into a humanitarian catastrophe, because of lacking supporting systems. It will be thereby of critical importance to ensure that these systems cover the different employment contracts and are sustainably financed. Blind activism and grasping at quick-fix measures will not help. Developing social protection systems is a marathon – not a sprint; the point is that we need start running it together with all the relevant actors involved and run it with accelerated speed.
The pandemic has triggered a quantum leap in digital transformation and how work is organised. Labour market frameworks do not reflect these changes. We must avoid trying to legislate against change. Instead we need to ensure that we fully tap into the opportunities arising from the fact that people can more easily connect with jobs as well as build and manage relationships with businesses and customers.
The changing world of work has also repercussions on our skills building systems. Labour market needs are changing so rapidly that it is of utmost importance to develop agile education and training systems which respond to these transformations. If we fail, young people will have tremendous difficulties entering the job market. The rapid changes in the labour market also requires that we develop better systems to ensure high-quality lifelong learning. We cannot allow people to be marginalised by technological progress. We must concentrate on helping them become empowered by new technologies as they shape the future of work.
A strong multilateral collaboration
The Saudi B20 stressed to G20 leaders to use the pandemic as a chance to design a future of work and education that is more equitable, more relevant and more inclusive: “An equitable future would include truly universal social protection and truly universal access to digital tools and education. A relevant future would see a workforce prepared for inevitable trends like the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Green Economy and Climate Change, New Forms of Work and the Care Economy. An inclusive future would transform the role of women across the economy, as well as groups that are discriminated against, and those suffering from poor physical or mental health.” The Italian G20 will have a key role to play to meet these expectations.
There is no alternative to a strong multilateral system. Changes in government in G20 countries might open opportunities for closer cooperation. The Italian G20 has the chance to revitalise not only the G20, but multilateral collaboration more broadly. International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and its members in 150 countries, representing more than 50 million companies, will strongly support the G20 Presidency in this endeavour.