Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the media briefing of the launch of the Global Commission on the Future of Work Report at the International Labour Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

22 January 2019  


Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, Mr Guy Ryder,
Distinguished guests,
Members of the media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is a great honour and privilege to be here in Geneva today to official launch the report of the Global Commission on the Future of Work.


As you would be aware, my co-chair, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, could not join us today as he has the responsibility of establishing a new government in Sweden.


I would like to use this opportunity to express my deep appreciation for the leadership he has provided throughout this process.


The mandate of the Global Commission on the Future of Work was to identify the key challenges for the future of work, and make recommendations on how these challenges can be managed in order to create the best future for the greatest number of people.


We have distilled the results of 18 months’ work and discussion into the ‘human-centred’ agenda presented here today.


Our starting point was this: dynamic forces are transforming the world of work.


These offer remarkable opportunities.


But change comes with challenges.


If we are to harness these changes for our benefit, rather than be shaped by them, we need a new approach.


The stakes could not be higher. Inequality is rising. Unemployment and working poverty trap hundreds of millions globally.


In short, the future of our societies depends on how we deal with challenges and opportunities related to the world of work.


We need to re-orient policies and actions to deliver a human-centred agenda.


This means placing people at the heart of economic and social policy and business practices.


The Global Commission’s report proposes 10 recommendations, grouped into three pillars. These are:


Firstly, investing in the capabilities of people.

Secondly, investing in the institutions of the world of work

And thirdly, investing in decent, sustainable work.


We see the first pillar, investing in the capabilities of people, as the cornerstone of a reinvigorated social contract.


It means much more than simply investing in human capital; it means looking at what is necessary for human development more broadly – factors such as rights, access and opportunities.


We propose formal recognition of a universal entitlement to lifelong learning and the setting-up of related systems.


If people are to benefit from, rather than be constricted by, new technology and new opportunities, they need to re-skill and up-skill throughout their lives.


To compliment this, we propose a system of entitlements to training, funded by reformed ‘employment insurance’ or ‘social funds’.


A strong lifelong learning system will enable workers to assume responsibility for their own learning and skills, will encourage them to take the time and risk to train, and help employers find the workers they need.


Working lives have always involved change, but technology, demographic changes and the transition to a low-carbon economy mean changes come more quickly and more often.


We need more support for work transitions, both through different stages of workers’ careers and when they move between types of work.


We must undertake transformative, measurable steps to make gender equality a reality.


These should include gender equality in child care and family responsibilities; more transparency in pay, including mandatory reporting; eliminating violence and harassment in the workplace; and specific measures to ensure equal opportunities, particularly in the technology sector.


Underpinning all of these, we recommend universal, life-long social protection, including a basic social protection floor, complemented by contributory social protection schemes.


We recognise this will require a re-allocation of public spending.


Our second pillar is increasing investment in the institutions of work.


This extends to institutions, systems and regulations.


Firstly, we propose establishing a Universal Labour Guarantee.


This would guarantee fundamental workers’ rights, including freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and freedom from forced and child labour.


It would also include a set of basic working conditions, such as an ‘adequate living wage’, limits on hours of work, and safety and health at work.


The Guarantee would be a tool for offering protection to all workers, regardless of their type of employment, and it creates a starting point from which to build labour market institutions appropriate for the 21st century world of work.


In addition, we propose new measures on ‘time sovereignty’, to give workers greater control over the hours and times they work, while meeting the needs of business.


Technology has blurred the lines between working and private time, but it can – and should – be used to expand choice and work-life balance.


Next, collective representation and social dialogue needs to be revitalised for current working practices, and recognised as a social good.


Workers’ and employers’ organisations need to embrace technology to reach and organise those working in non-traditional and informal ways.


This leads to a broader point – we must harness technology for the world of work we want, rather than allowing it to shape us.


In the 20th century, we established that ‘labour is not a commodity’.


In the 21st century, we must ensure it is not a robot.


We propose a ‘human-in-command’ approach, ensuring that technology frees workers and improves work, rather than reducing their control.


In addition, we propose an international governance system for digital labour platforms to ensure technology works in the service of decent work.


And we know this can be done.


The ILO’s 2006 Maritime Labour Convention is an example of an effective cross-border labour code.


The third pillar of our human-centred agenda is investment in decent and sustainable work.


We must increase long-term investment in areas that support the transformation we want, favour human development and protect the planet.


Targeted private and public sector investment, coupled with the right technology, can create millions of new, decent, sustainable, jobs in the green economy, the care economy, infrastructure development and rural areas.


Our final recommendation involves reshaping the incentive structures that guide business activity, so that they encourage long-term, responsible investment in the ‘real’ economy.


This would include adopting additional indicators for measuring progress.


We know that GDP alone is an insufficient indicator of success.


We need broader measures that capture environmental impact, unpaid work, equality and other aspects of human well-being.


We recommend changes in corporate governance and conduct.


Firstly, we suggest an extension to stakeholder representation to make companies more accountable.


Secondly, we need to create incentives for a longer-term outlook on success – for example by ending quarterly financial reporting, incentives for long-term shareholding, and more inclusive bottom line reporting.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


We would like this report to be seen as just the start of a journey.


The next phase starts now.


It requires the broadest possible participation, with governments, workers, employers and other parts of society engaging in the debate, both nationally and internationally.


The ILO also has a crucial role to play.


With 100 years of experience in world-of-work issues, no international body is better placed.


We are recommending that the ILO put in place institutional arrangements that will enable it to be the focal point for national future-of-work strategies.


It can also promote coordination between other multinational bodies that want to contribute to this process.


Change is inevitable.


And it is widely recognised that change in our current systems is needed.


The members of the Global Commission believe that – with the right, proactive, inclusive approach – we can seize the opportunities these changes are bringing to deliver greater economic security, equal opportunities and social justice.


I thank you.