Towards Sustainable Employment in Open and Dynamic Labour Markets

© Gerhard Braun

On December 2016, Germany officially assumed the Presidency of the G20, along with that of the G20 business dialogue – Business 20 (B20). The BDA, the BDI and the DIHK will jointly preside over the B20, which supports the G20 through concrete recommendations for action, consolidated representation of interests and expertise. At the same time, the B20 promotes dialogue between Policy-makers, civil society and business at the international level.

The work of the B20 is organized into various task forces, including one that focuses on Employment and Education and brings together business representatives who will address labour and social policy issues. The task force makes proactive recommendations to the G20 in the following three areas in particular: promoting employment through open, inclusive and dynamic labour markets; harnessing the potential of technical progress through education; and promoting sustainability in global supply chains through the creation of a global level playing field and through ensuring fair competition.

The task force is seeking answers to today’s international challenges, including, for example, high youth unemployment and the obstacles to women entering or re-entering the job market. Open and dynamic labour markets are also beneficial to other vulnerable groups such as migrants. However, more than simply opening geographical borders is required in this context. Steps should be taken to make it easier to switch from informal to formal employment. Especially in economically less developed countries informal employment is a major societal problem, yet for many it offers the only opportunity to earn any kind of living. Young people, in particular, find it extremely difficult to gain a foothold in “formal” employment. In countries where vocational training is strongly anchored in the education system, youth unemployment is much lower. Therefore it is important to introduce forms of dual education in other countries to make it easier for youths and young adults to enter the world of work.

Besides high unemployment, experts also heavily discuss the topic of digital transformation. There is general agreement that the business world will be significantly transformed in the future by digitalization. However, this gigantic technical innovation can be viewed both as an opportunity for economic development and as a threat to less skilled jobs. The task force is addressing this issue and seeking solutions in the area of education, in particular, for coping with the looming changes. Vocational training adapted to domestic conditions promises the greatest success. It efficiently equips people with those skills that companies require, while keeping up with technological change. To ensure the functioning of such a system, governments must cooperate with business to guarantee that the education systems match labour market needs.

Of central importance for the task force is the focus of the G20 Presidency on sustainability in supply chains. The issue here is how to promote fair competition and a level playing field for companies operating globally. Creating healthy and secure working environments should be the concern of all companies in producing countries and not only of those being part of global supply chains. To this end, governments must create and enforce national law obliging enterprises to respect human rights.

In all these areas, cooperation both between governments and with social partner organizations plays a major role. The B20 achieves such cooperation through its dialogue not only with representatives of the G20 governments but also with the trade union representatives in Labour 20 (L20).

Gerhard Braun is Vice-President of the BDA and Chairman of the B20 working group “Employment and Education”.