Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the World of Work Summit of the International Labour Organisation, Palais De Nations, Geneva, Switzerland

Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the World of Work Summit of the International Labour Organisation, Palais De Nations, Geneva, Switzerland


President of the International Labour Conference, Dr Al bin Samikh Al Marri,

Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, Mr Gilbert Houngbo,

Heads of State and Government,

Representatives of international agencies,

Representatives of employers and workers groups present,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is a great honour to address this esteemed World of Work Summit.


As South Africa, we carry a profound sense of responsibility and a deep commitment to the advancement of social justice.


This commitment to social justice stands at the centre of our democratic Constitutional order and has guided us over the last three decades as we have sought to build a new nation.


As we gather here, we are reminded of the importance of collaboration as we work to address the challenges facing our global society.


The International Labour Organisation was founded on the principle that universal and lasting peace can only be achieved through social justice.


And yet, despite our collective efforts, progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals has been slow and uneven.


The COVID-19 pandemic, economic shocks, rising costs of living and environmental change have exacerbated poverty, inequality and social fractures in many countries.


We need urgent action to address these challenges.


We are therefore encouraged by the call of the United Nations Secretary-General for a new social contract to give effect to our shared responsibility to create a more just and equitable society.


We are encouraged by – and support – the proposed Global Coalition for Social Justice, which aligns with the vision of the UN Secretary-General and seeks to promote decent work while advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


As leaders, we must prioritise the actions we need to take to advance social justice.


Through this Summit, we should generate renewed momentum towards a more sustainable and equitable world.


South Africa was honoured to participate in the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work.


The Commission’s report highlighted the transformative forces shaping the world of work and the need for decisive action to harness the opportunities they present.


We fully support the report’s human-centred agenda for the future of work and its recommendations, such as increasing investment in people’s capabilities and in decent and sustainable work.


We firmly believe that social justice is a fundamental pillar of sustainable development.


That means we must remove the structural barriers that hamper equal access to opportunities. We must prioritise the removal of discrimination based on gender, age, race, migration status and other grounds.


Institutions must deliberately work to dismantle these barriers, while actors in society should work towards eliminating discrimination and ensuring equal treatment for all.


We must create platforms for open and inclusive discussion, where all stakeholders can contribute their perspectives.


Social dialogue allows us to harness our collective wisdom and find solutions that reflect the needs and aspirations of all segments of society.


Income inequality must be addressed.


Wage policies and collective bargaining have a vital role in reducing income inequalities and ensuring a just distribution of economic progress.


We must focus on increasing the labour earnings of non-wage workers, who often find themselves at the lower end of income distribution.


Social partners all have a role to play in narrowing income gaps and promoting fair and equitable societies.


Social partners also need to collaborate to foster productivity and ensure that its gains are shared fairly.


By narrowing productivity gaps across countries, industries and enterprises, we can contribute to a more equitable distribution of wealth and opportunities.


We need to ensure our labour market strategies and interventions also benefit people working in the informal economy.


At the same time, we must extend social protection to workers in the informal economy, provide them with access to quality health care and education, and support their transition to formal employment.


By aligning education and skills development with the demands of the job market, we can enhance productivity, sustainability and decent work opportunities.


Trade and investment arrangements should incorporate a social dimension that respects labour and human rights, as well as decent work standards.


It is important that we pursue transitions to low-carbon economies in a just and inclusive manner. These transitions need to be guided by the needs, interests and views of those workers, communities and industries most affected by the changes that must necessarily take place.


As we develop opportunities in emerging sectors such as renewable energy, digital industries and the green economy, we must ensure that these jobs are decent and provide comprehensive social protection for workers and their families.


As leaders, we must demonstrate our commitment to social justice through concrete actions.


We need to implement policies and programmes that contribute to job creation, promote entrepreneurship and ensure fair wages and working conditions for all workers.


At a time of great uncertainty, amid heightened geopolitical contestation, we need to work together to safeguard the mandate and critical work of institutions like the International Labour Organisation.


We should not allow ourselves to be diverted from the path of social justice by partisan interests.


The Global Coalition for Social Justice is a significant step towards collective action.


It will provide a platform for sharing experiences, learning from each other’s successes and challenges, and mobilising resources to address the complex issues that hinder social justice.


Let us therefore use this moment to reaffirm our commitment to social justice and redouble our efforts to build a more equitable and inclusive world.


Let us use this World of Work Summit as a catalyst for change.


I urge all member states, organisations and stakeholders to join forces and contribute to the realisation of the proposed Global Coalition for Social Justice.


Together, we can create a world where every individual, regardless of their background or circumstance, has equal access to opportunities, rights and a decent quality of life.


May this Summit be a catalyst for the fundamental global change we seek towards the achievement of social justice for all.


I thank you.


Issued by: The Presidency