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02 December



For India’s G20 Presidency, employment and employability must be a priority

The JustJobs Network launches a research agenda on pressing priorities.

Several forces ranging from climate change and technological transformation to the COVID- 19 pandemic are upending the world of work as we know it. For some countries, creating enough good quality jobs for their large and growing populations poses a formidable challenge, while other countries struggle with labour shortages and ageing societies.

At this critical juncture, the ‘Group of 20’ (G20) has a pivotal role to play in managing the massive restructuring underway in the world of work: it must promote international cooperation to enable sustainable job creation, foster safe labour mobility, and improve social protection systems that support workers and businesses in the face of rapid and continuous change. Realising the Sustainable Development Goals hinges on the achievement of these aims.

Battling global financial crises and crafting strategies for recovery are indelibly linked to the DNA of the G20. It was formed initially as a response to the Asian financial crisis of 1997, and arguably was most effective in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis when its members coordinated the timing of their fiscal stimulus packages to stabilise their economies in the face of the contagion. The focus in the first part of the century centred heavily on financial sector reform, but the centrality of work and livelihoods to sustained recovery has gained visibility since.

The G20 Task Force on Employment was set up at the Cannes Summit in 2011 and has assumed a more permanent form in the G20 Employment Working Group (EWG), which shares best practices, develops policy principles, and promotes collective commitments to build well-functioning and inclusive labour markets. G20 employment and labour ministers meet periodically to define ways to address key labour market challenges ranging from unemployment, especially youth unemployment, informality and underemployment, to the need to reform social welfare and education and training systems.

As the world faces the prospect of another sustained economic downturn, the focus on ‘work’ – its present and the future – is more important than ever. As chair of the G20, India has a unique opportunity to steer the conversation on economic recovery toward issues of employment and employability. The ability to provide for oneself and one’s family is, after all, the link that will always connect the world of policy to the main street. These issues are central to India’s own growth and prosperity given that it is home to the world’s largest youth population.

For the duration of India’s G20 presidency, the JustJobs Network will serve as a knowledge partner to the Ministry of Labour and Employment. In an effort to inform the process, over the course of the next year, we will produce a series of research outputs focussed on three priority areas:

  1. Building effective social security systems;
  2. Extending welfare entitlements and labour protections to more workers, including those in non-standard forms of work such as platform and gig workers;
  3. Enabling more effective education and skills training systems to equip workers to meet domestic and international demand.

In each of these areas, we will delve deeper into the specific challenges confronting countries in the Global South, and the vulnerable populations within these countries with a specific focus on the experiences and needs of women.

Taking each in turn:

(i) Building effective social security systems

Social security is key to protecting workers against economic shocks, smoothing consumption, and allowing for easier labour market transitions. It is particularly crucial at a time when the world of work is undergoing rapid and constant transformation.

Against this backdrop, our research will examine the existing social security systems in G20 countries to glean lessons for what is feasible in countries with varying fiscal positions and at different levels of development. We will explore key considerations and lessons from other countries on how to finance social security systems. This will entail studying what mix of contributions, social insurance, reallocation of expenditures, and additional sources of revenue could help finance an iteratively expanding social safety net to close coverage gaps.

(ii) Extending welfare entitlements and labour protections to more workers

The labour market has undergone quick and dramatic restructuring as a result of forces ranging from climate change and rapid technological advancement to the recent pandemic. A growing contingent of workers are engaging in different kinds of non-standard employment such as contract-based work, self-employment, gig work, or temporary work. These forms of work are often beyond the purview of regulations offering little or no labour and social protections to workers.

JJN’s work over the course of the next year will examine emerging trends with respect to workers in non-standard forms of work in select G20 countries. We will explore how these workers and their labour market transitions can be made more visible so as to extend better protections; looking at e-formalisation, for instance. We will look at new and changed policies and regulations in G20 countries with respect to recognising and defining the labour status of these workers. We will see how these workers map to existing social welfare entitlements.

(iii) Enabling more effective education and skills training systems to equip workers to meet domestic and international demand

Whether in an ageing economy, or one poised to witness a demographic boom, skill development is crucial to meet the needs of ever-changing markets and to foster labour mobility between sectors, or across geographies.

JustJobs Network’s research over the course of the next year will draw lessons from G20 country experiences to understand which methodologies for assessing labour market demand, and establishing functioning Labour Market Information Systems, are most effective. This will enable an assessment of skill gaps and will help hone human resource capacity creation. We will examine the existing skills training architectures in G20 countries to glean different models of skills provision. Our research will look at the merits of, and find ways of supporting, employer-led and cluster-based approaches to skills training and apprenticeships that also respect worker rights and protections.

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