Thursday, December 09, 2004


Norm reports on the International Labour Organisation's latest report.
The International Labour Organisation's World Employment report said about 2.8 billion people were employed globally in 2003. But nearly 1.4 billion, the highest number ever, are living on less than $2 a day, while 550 million are living under the $1 poverty line. On current growth projections, this could halve in some areas of the world by 2015.
One of the main goals is to halve the number people living on $1 a day by 2015. About 185.9 million people worldwide were unemployed in 2003. This is just the "tip of iceberg", the report says, since more than seven times that number are employed but still live in poverty.

To achieve high employment rates and a greater reduction in poverty, there needs to be a focus on improving productivity. Gains in productivity can benefit workers in the form of higher earnings and reduced working time.
So the solution to our problems is "improve[d] productivity". If workers are not paid piece-rate but a fixed wage is not "improve[d] productivity" just going to mean the wage stays the same; the time at work stays the same; and all that happens is that more stuff gets made for more potential profit surplus value for the owners? Not that this is an argument for the abomination of piece-rate pay, just a statement that "improve[d] productivity" does not, necessarily, lead to better working conditions (pay and time at work).

This level of daily income is a stain on the, collective, human ethic. The World Development Movement has a Trade Justice Campaign that is worth supporting. The main points are
  • The EU should unilaterally end agricultural export subsidies now

  • The EU should support changes to trade rules to enshrine the right of developing countries to protect their domestic agricultural sectors on the grounds of food security, livelihood security and sustainable rural development. As a first step at the WTO, the EU should ensure developing countries are able to self-select products on these grounds to be exempt from any further liberalisation

  • The UK Government to demand that the IMF and World Bank stop imposing trade conditions on poor countries

  • The EU to withdraw its demand that water is included in GATS

  • The UK Government (and EU) should oppose any restrictions on the ability of governments to regulate foreign investment in accordance with their development and environmental needs

  • The EU to ensure that global trade policies and practices do not undercut internationally agreed social and environmental standards, in particular core labour standards and as a first step to ensure that the ILO is granted full observer status at the WTO

  • The UK Government (and EU) to enact legislation to ensure that companies are held accountable for their social and environmental impacts at home and abroad

  • The EU to withdraw the following demands from its Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiating mandate:
    - reciprocal trade liberalisation
    - negotiations on competition policy, investment and public procurement
  • Do something. And do it now.

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