Global leaders in public and private spheres should invest much stronger in humans, institutions and decent work to save millions of jobs from automation in the near future, said a top official of the International Labour Organisation yesterday.
Nations will have to face some challenges like automation for advanced technologies, climate change and a new kind of globalisation, said Panudda Boonpala, deputy regional director of the ILO’s regional office for Asia and the Pacific.
“These challenges keep us amidst rising uncertainties. Bangladesh has also been facing those challenges,” she told a national dialogue on the future of work at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka.
Though Bangladesh experienced transformative success over the past 10 years and progressed a lot into making decent work the norm, a lot needs to be done to bring about further improvements, said Boonpala.
She suggested the government invest in job creation and social protection.
“We hope that Bangladesh will ratify the ILO Convention 138 on the minimum age for entry into employment and the Convention 29 on forced labour… (to) complete the ratification of all core labour standards of the ILO,” Boonpala said.
The ILO and the Ministry of Labour and Employment jointly organised the dialogue marking the ILO’s 100th anniversary. The attendees were from home and abroad, including ministers, government high-ups, advisers, diplomats, ILO officials, labour leaders, and factory owners.
While Boonpala highlighted the ILO’s glorious past and contribution to establishing global peace by ensuring social justice and decent work, Gowher Rizvi, prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser, said the organisation was expected to do the same for a better world in the next century.
However, the sad truth still remains as by and large labourers are treated as commodity and the value of labour is paid off in their salaries and wages, which is not enough, he said.
They are equal partners and have much contribution in generating wealth and prosperity both for the government and the private sector. “Workers should be equal partners and this can be done by giving them equitable share of the wealth they create,” Rizvi said.
Kamran T Rahman, chairman of the Bangladesh Employers’ Federation, said as a specialised body, the ILO’s worth has centred around four strategic objectives -- standard, social dialogue, social security and employment.
He said five factors are impacting businesses irrespective of their size, sector and location: technological innovation, global economic integration, demographic and generational shift, climate change and sustainability and the global shortage of skilled labour.
Begum Monnujan Sufian, state minister for labour and employment, spoke of reforms in the labour administration for improving safety, welfare and access to justice for workers.
“I would like to acknowledge the support of the ILO in our journey since 1972,” she said.
“There is increasing use of automation, artificial intelligence and robotics in enterprises. To address the challenges that may arise from these technological changes, harmonious cooperation between workers and employers is important,” Sufian said.
In January 2019, an independent report titled “Global Commission on the Future of Work” was published by the ILO.
The report called for a “human-centred agenda” for the future of work through increased investment in people’s capabilities, strengthening the institutions of work and advancing decent and sustainable work. These recommendations were reiterated at yesterday’s dialogue.
Created in 1919 as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, the ILO became the first specialised agency of the United Nations in 1946.
The organisation received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969 and today is recognised as the global authority on the world of work offering over 100 years of knowledge, experience and technical support in the pursuit of social justice.
Md Shahidul Haque, senior secretary to the foreign affairs ministry, KM Ali Azam, secretary to the labour and employment ministry, and Tuomo Poutiainen, country director of the ILO Bangladesh, also spoke.