Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría
Berlin, Germany, 13 June 2017
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Minister Nahles, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the High Level Policy Forum on the new OECD Jobs Strategy. I would like to thank Minister Nahles and Germany’s Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs for their fruitful and productive collaboration and for hosting today’s discussions.
It’s been a long road to this Meeting. The OECD Jobs Strategy was launched well over 20 years ago, in 1994, comprising 10 broad policy guidelines and almost 70 detailed policy recommendations. Initially, it focussed on tackling the high and persistent unemployment that plagued many OECD countries in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 2006, the Jobs Strategy was broadened to promote labour force participation and introduce some elements of job quality. But the emphasis remained on promoting the overall number of jobs.
Ten years on, the context has radically changed. Since 2007, we have been experiencing the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression. While the jobs gap has finally closed in most OECD countries, it remains large in some. Wage growth is subdued, even in countries where employment has recovered. Income inequality has reached unprecedented levels, threatening social cohesion, economic growth and well-being. In OECD countries, the average income of the top 10% has increased to ten times that of the bottom 10%, up from seven times in the mid-1980s.
And, at the same time, our economies are undergoing a process of profound structural transformation. Rapid technological change ─ including through increased digitalisation and automation ─ and the continued expansion of global value chains are providing new opportunities for workers. However, they are also bringing disruption. The OECD estimates that 9% of jobs across OECD countries could be automated in the next 15-20 years and a further 25% are at risk of significant change. Furthermore, many new jobs are non-standard, including in the sharing and ‘gig’ economy, with unclear implications for the quality of work.
In this context, Ministers at last year’s OECD Labour and Employment Ministerial called on the OECD to review and update the Jobs Strategy. Our mission is to help achieve an inclusive labour market that performs strongly in the context of demographic change, environmental challenges, globalisation, ongoing technological progress, and changes in work organisation.
For the last year and a half, we have been working hard on this mandate. Today, we will update you on our progress, seek your feedback on emerging policy messages, and discuss our key priorities going forward. Please do not hold back. Be bold, be ambitous, share your experiences and your concerns – we are listening!
The time is ripe for a new OECD Jobs Strategy. It must be considerably broader, to take sufficient account of issues of job quality and inclusiveness. It must be forward-looking, to ensure its relevance in a constantly evolving world of work. And it must focus on adaptability and resilience to economic upheaval, because our policy recommendations must be robust to our inherently uncertain future.
In 2018, the OECD will deliver a policy document at our annual Ministerial Council Meeting that will present the overall framework of the new Jobs Strategy, which will be followed by the release of an analytical volume. The new Jobs Strategy will also be part of the OECD’s flagship Inclusive Growth Initiative.
At last week’s OECD Ministerial Council Meeting, we presented a Progress Report on our Inclusive Growth Initiative. We discussed, for example, upskilling workers to ensure the digital revolution becomes a force for inclusiveness and well-being, and the merits of policies which make social protection portable, linking entitlements to individuals rather than jobs.
Today’s High-Level Policy Forum is an opportunity to go deep into these issues. We have a lot of ground to cover! We will discuss the proposed framework for the new Jobs Strategy, its emerging policy messages, and the challenges of improving job quality for health and productivity. We will also explore ways to promote labour market resilience in the wake of a recession and reflect on responses to the challenges of the future of work.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Since we are developing a new Jobs Strategy adapted to the future of work, it seems appropriate to close with a quote by one of the world’s most visionary futurists, Alvin Toffler. He said that “the illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn.”
Nowhere is this more true than in the world of work. More than ever, workers will have to constantly upgrade their skills in tune with labour market needs. And we, as a policy community, have to update our tools and our policy prescriptions to anticipate and stay ahead of the game, and ensure that we empower citizens to pursue and create opportunities in globalised and digitialised economies.
Your input to the new OECD Jobs Strategy will support this goal. Let’s get to work!