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Speech by Mr. Zhang Zuoji, Minister of Labor and Social Security, at the Global Employment Forum (November 1, 2001, Geneva)

Distinguished Mr. Somavia, Director General of ILO,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First, on behalf of the Government of China, I would like to extend my congratulations on the opening of the Global Employment Forum. The mankind has entered the 21st century. The globalization of the economy has been accelerating. Science and technology is advancing rapidly with each passing day. The world of labor is facing unprecedented opportunities and challenges. Poverty and unemployment has become a principal issue in the social and economic development of all countries.

Six years ago, World Summit for social development in Copenhagen recognized employment promotion as a basic priority in economic and social policies. The 24th special session of the General Assembly for social development in Geneva last year further required all governments to take effective actions in this aspect. During the last six years, the countries, hand in hand, have made effective efforts in the field of anti-unemployment and anti-poverty. However, in the new circumstance of globalization and economic downturn anti-unemployment and antipoverty remains a hard task. It is especially difficult for the developing countries to meet the pressing challenge brought by the new circumstance both in terms of overall national strength and quality of the working population. Therefore, we should take more effective measures to address this issue with extraordinary courage so as to attain greater achievement. It is an appropriate time for the ILO to hold the Global Employment Forum today, bringing together the member States to explore the global strategy for employment promotion under the theme of decent work which will have far reaching implication.

Mr. Chairman,

With a population of 1.26 billion and one fifth of the world labor force, China is confronted with a pressing task of employment promotion. The government of China has been paying great attention to the issue of employment. It has integrated employment closely with its economic and social development policy and made continuous effort to solve the problem, which has guaranteed the smooth progress of economic reform and promoted economic development and social stability. During a long period of time, we persist in combining rural poverty alleviation with, employment promotion. As a result of more than 20 years' work, the rate of poverty population in the rural area has decreased from 30.7 per cent in the year 1978 to 3 per cent in the year 2000. We persist in combining employment promotion with the development of social security system, establishing the three security lines of basic allowance for urban residents and improving the pension and medical insurance system. We persist in combining employment creation with economic strategy adjustment, maintaining a comparatively stable employment situation in the process of economic restructure. We attach great importance to human resources capacity building, developing vocational education and improving vocational training system so as to enhance the quality and capacity of the workers. The outline for the 10th five-year economic and social development plan of China indicates that employment creation should become an important goal of economic and social development and economic social policies that facilitate employment should be adopted.

China finds, from its own experience, that the improvement of the employment environment and working condition of the disadvantaged groups is critical to the achievement of decent work. The following measures are essential in view of the situation of China. First, it is necessary to formulate social and economic policies that facilitate employment and make efforts to create employment. It is also necessary to develop employment service, strengthen vocational training, and adopt flexible forms of employment so as to promote employment, which is the prerequisite of decent work. Secondly, it is necessary to take effective measures to help the workers in the informal economy to solve the problems of policy, loan, social service and working condition, which is the fundamental means of achieving decent work. Thirdly, it is necessary to establish and improve the social security system so as to ensure the access to basic social security services of the workers under all circumstances including maternity, old age, illness and death, which is the essential guarantee of decent work. At present, cities like Shanghai have developed a comprehensive policy package to assist the workers in the informal sectors, extending social insurance coverage to the workers and providing basic conditions for the initiating and development of informal business. Furthermore, it is necessary to take measures to address the employment problem of special groups including the female and the handicapped and facilitate the reemployment of those who become unemployed in the process of economic restructuring.

Mr. Chairman,

From a global point of view, special attention needs to be given to the improvement of working conditions of workers in the developing countries so as to acquire decent work. In this respect, besides efforts of the developing countries themselves, is of great necessity. Not long ago, China successfully sponsored the 9th informal meeting of the APEC leaders. President Jiang Zemin advocated in the meeting that the economic and technical cooperation centered on human resources capacity building should be strengthened so as to develop in balance with trade and investment liberalization. We need to work together to promote the establishment of the new international political and economic order and achieve common development and prosperity.

Mr. Chairman

The social and development summit in Copenhagen has required the ILO to play a special role in employment and social development. The successful opening of this Global Employment Forum will actively promote the realization of the requirement of the social and development summit and the formulation of employment work plan. The government of China supports the goals and measures put forward in the Global Agenda for Employment and suggests that the ILO draw up regional employment promotion strategy in response to different situations and promote the member States to adopt active employment policy. I believe that the implementation of the various priorities put forward in the Global Agenda for Employment will create an active impact on the attaining of decent work and the four strategic objectives of the ILO. The government of China will work with all other governments in the world to make unremitting efforts in this important field.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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