SPEECHES — DG ROBERTO AZEVÊDO
Remarks by DG Azevêdo
Director-General Guy Ryder,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning – and welcome to this launch event of the joint ILO-WTO Report entitled “Investing in Skills for Inclusive Trade”.
From the outset, let me say that it is a great pleasure to welcome Guy Ryder.
Of course, this building is the former home of the ILO. In fact, outside this room, there is an artwork displaying the founding text of the ILO from the Treaty of Versailles.
It underlines that peace must have its foundation in social justice – and that social justice, in turn, is dependent on workers’ rights.
Delegates pass by this text every time they enter this room to discuss or negotiate trade issues. It serves as a constant reminder of the intersection between trade and labour, and between our two organisations.
The text of the Treaty also refers to the importance of vocational and technical education – and this is at the heart of our discussion this morning.
The report we are launching today focuses on trade and skills, and it builds on a track record of collaboration between our two organisations.
This is actually the fourth joint report we have produced. The others looked at:
- the relationship between trade and employment;
- the linkages between trade and the informal economy;
- and how we can help to make globalization more socially sustainable.
Today’s report looks at another very important and topical issue.
Skills are vital for many reasons – to help workers find good jobs, to keep economies competitive, and to keep up with structural changes, driven by technology or other factors.
The report digs into all of these issues in great detail. But let me share a few key points that I took away from it.
Why skills matter
First, skills matter for economic performance.
Globalization and trade are powerful drivers of economic growth. They help countries to adopt new technologies, improve productivity and shift resources towards more productive and innovative firms.
This simply can’t happen without the availability of workers who have the appropriate skills.
If skills can respond swiftly to changes in demand, economies will reap more benefits, not only from globalization and trade, but also from technological progress.
Strong and evolving skills policies are therefore essential to stay competitive.
So that’s the first point.
The second point is that skills matter all the more because of the wider economic context.
Economic growth has not recovered since the financial crisis and the ensuing recession. Countries are struggling to adjust to new conditions. This requires a wider policy response.
For example, the evidence suggests that those economies with responsive skills development systems are more successful in putting skills to use in tradable activities – thereby boosting the opportunities of trade for growth and recovery. This applies in developing and developed countries alike.
And this brings me to my third point.
Skills are vital to ensure that globalization is inclusive.
The threat of skills becoming outdated is rising in tandem with technological change. And technological change is now moving at a ferocious pace.
The World Economic Forum cites estimates that around 65% of pre-school children today will go on to work in jobs that do not currently exist.
In this environment, workers need to update their skills continuously and job-seekers need to adjust their skill sets to find good jobs.
Life-long learning and active labour market policies will become more and more important in ensuring that no one is left behind.
This can sound scary. It certainly poses challenges – but actually it is all about opportunity. And skills are the means by which we will seize that opportunity.
And the report shows that trade can be helpful here. It finds that trade motivates firms to upskill, as they look to compete in international markets. And since exporting firms tend to pay better salaries, trade creates further incentive for investment in skills.
Clearly every country will have their own approach, tailored to their own needs. But I think it’s clear from this report that investing in skills is vital to leverage the power of trade for growth and development.
I think the report is also very clear about the need for more coordination to address some of the complex issues in this area.
As well as our two organisations working together, I think we need to work with a wide range of other partners – with governments, labour groups, civil society, business and others. Together we should aim to support the development of effective policies which help governments to meet these challenges, and which help individuals to benefit from the opportunities that the global economy has to offer.
Let me close now by congratulating everyone involved in producing this report.
I’d like to thank, in particular, Marc Bacchetta and Stela Rubinova from the WTO side, and Cornelius Gregg and Bolormaa Klok, from the ILO.
I am sure Guy will endorse my words of appreciation to you, for the excellent work put into this report.
I look forward to our continued collaboration in tackling the issues raised in this report which are, in my view, some of the most pressing challenges of our age.
Thank you – I wish you all a very fruitful and insightful discussion today.