OECD Secretary-General

High-level follow-up meeting of the Global Deal for Decent Work and Inclusive Growth


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

OECD Secretary-General 

New York, 18 September 2017

(As prepared for delivery)


Prime Minister Löfven, dear colleagues,


It is a pleasure to be back here in New York in such good company, exactly one year after the launch of the Global Deal. Today is both an opportunity to celebrate the first results of this partnership, and to take stock of the challenges ahead.


The legacies of the crisis are still being felt by workers across the globe

We are now almost ten years after the beginning of the crisis. While the global economy has largely recovered, many people are still struggling with unemployment and under-employment, and most workers have not seen strong gains in living standards. We see public scepticism about the benefits of trade and globalisation.


Moreover, technological change, digitalisation and the ageing of our labour forces are profoundly affecting our labour markets, changing the types of jobs that will be needed in the future as well as how, where and by whom they will be carried out. For example, 9% of jobs across the OECD countries are considered to be at high risk of automation over the next 10 to 20 years. And while many other jobs are unlikely to become automated, they are likely to be changed in some way by technology.


These transformations present both opportunities and challenges for our societies. Social dialogue is an important tool to help governments face these profound changes, but it needs to be strengthened and partly redesigned.


Social dialogue can play an important role in the fourth industrial revolution

Today, some 80 million workers are members of trade unions across OECD countries, and about 155 million are covered by collective agreements. But social dialogue and collective bargaining are struggling to remain relevant: the share of workers who are members of a trade union has shrunk from 30% in 1985 to 17% today. The share of workers covered by a collective agreement has also shrunk from 45% to 33% over the same period. This trend may well continue as technological and organisational change, together with significant labour market reforms, increase the individualisation of employment relationships.


Our work with the Global Deal highlights the important role that social dialogue can play in promoting inclusive growth. It’s about reducing inequalities and helping to foster quality jobs for all workers, particularly the most vulnerable: those on non-regular job contracts, women, and young people. This in turn helps to level the playing field for business, and to boost productivity growth which remains low in many of our countries today.


The Global Deal provides an opportunity to re-think social dialogue for the future

Looking ahead, we need to rethink social dialogue – promoting it at the firm level and broadening its scope beyond wage bargaining to also include skills development, working conditions and possibly the upgrading of our social protection systems to take into account the rise of irregular employment relationships.


We also need to find ways of transcending national boundaries to engage with the reality of today’s global value chains.


The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are one example of how this goal can be pursued, by making social dialogue a pillar of responsible business conduct.


Excellencies, dear colleagues,


The Global Deal will enable us to join forces, share experiences and practices, and to raise awareness. I therefore call on all businesses and countries to join the Global Deal. The OECD stands ready to support this crucial endeavour.



See also

OECD work on inclusive growth

OECD work on social and welfare issues




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