OECD Secretary-General

ILO Centenary Celebration


Remarks by Ángel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

14 June 2019 - Geneva, Switzerland

(as prepared for delivery)


Dear Director-General Ryder, Ministers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am honoured to be here in Geneva for the International Labor Organization’s Centenary Summit. The OECD is proud to celebrate this tremendous achievement with our close partners and friends at the ILO. In the last 100 years, you have led the fight against child and forced labour, developed the first international labour standard on HIV and AIDS, spearheaded conventions on the treatment of migrants and domestic workers, and the list goes on. Your efforts have made the world a better place, reflected in receiving the 1969 Nobel Peace Prize in the occasion of your 50th birthday.

I would also like to recognise the ILO’s Director General, Mr. Guy Ryder, on his leadership and unwavering commitment to promoting social justice and protecting people’s human and labour rights.

Today’s centenary celebration is focused on remembering the past, but also on looking forward. In this spirit, I would like to congratulate the ILO’s Global Commission on its “Work for a Brighter Future” report. The principles outlined in this report will help inform our policy actions and address the concerns that many people feel today. They are closely aligned with the OECD’s own vision on the Future of Work – including our “I Am the Future of Work” campaign – and our broader Inclusive Growth Initiative. Let me provide some context.

Our estimates predict that 14% of jobs in OECD countries are at high risk of automation and a further 32% will undergo significant changes in how they are carried out in the next 15-20 years. While these estimates suggest that we may not be facing a risk of massive technological unemployment, they will nonetheless mean a difficult transition for many workers. Low-skilled workers do not only face a higher likelihood of their jobs being automated, the probability that they engage in adult learning is also 40 percentage points lower than for high-skilled workers.

Moreover, the emergence of new forms of work has highlighted gaps in entitlements and in actual coverage of workers. For example, non-standard workers are 40-50% less likely to receive income support when out-of-work in some OECD countries. And they are 50% less likely to be unionised. In fact, we should drop the “ non- standard” adjective, as we are clearly facing a growing cohort of such workers.

As we stress in the OECD’s 2019 Employment Outlook on the Future of Work, action at the margin will not suffice to address these challenges. The 2019 Employment Outlook includes a comprehensive transition agenda for a Future That Works For All, which aims at helping workers, firms, and countries adapt to the changing world of work. It highlights the following actions:

  • First, we need to minimise the “grey zone” between salaried work and self-employment, and strengthen the rights of workers who remain in this “grey zone”.
  • Second, we must strengthen and adapt adult learning systems for workers, particularly the most vulnerable. This can be achieved by removing time and financial constraints to participation, by providing quality information and counselling – as Germany is considering – and by making training rights portable.
  • Third, we must focus on reducing gaps in social protection through improved coverage for non standard workers, and by ensuring social protection systems are responsive to changes in people’s needs while ensuring portability of contributions.
  • Finally, we must focus more on social dialogue, in the spirit of the Global Deal – a global multi-stakeholder partnership of which the OECD and ILO are proud founding partners, along with Sweden. Collective bargaining can help companies adjust wages, working time, work organisation and tasks. It can also help anticipate skills needs and provide support to displaced workers. However, low levels of representation among workers – particularly workers on non-standard contracts – are a challenge and call for facilitating new forms of social dialogue and for making tailored extensions of collective bargaining rights.

All of these policy efforts must be properly funded if they are to succeed. While there is space to improve the effectiveness and targeting of key policies, countries will also need to increase revenue sources and involve all stakeholders.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

We must all be involved in preparing and building the Future of Work. In this respect, I would like to close by recognising the important role of the ILO, as we celebrate its centenary. The ILO’s tripartite constituency has demonstrated the power of governments, employers, and worker representatives in facing challenges together. And you can count on the OECD’s continued support for the next 100 years and beyond! Thank you.

See also:

OECD work on skills


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