Introduction, Scope & Issues

The Problem

The current global economic recession has increased unemployment rates in both the developed and developing countries and thereby has added to the hardships of the people. It has made the task of accelerating job growth an even more urgent proposition than before. The collapse of communism and decrease in social security benefits has made employment the only meaningful option for providing a decent living to the billion people living below the poverty line in developing countries and for fulfilling the aspirations of an equal number of people to rise to middle class level in those same countries. The very quick spread of globalization and the formation of many regional economic associations have made it very difficult to protect national economics from the adverse effects of global recession. The accelerated growth of international trade and new job outsourcing policies have led to job reduction in many sectors and thereby fueled public resentment towards globalization and intensified demands for quick remedial action on the home front. People’s expectation about rising income and better living standards have led to dissatisfaction with present stagnant living conditions and thereby has fostered fundamentalist and extremist movements. In such a context India’s efforts to provide guaranteed employment to millions of rural workers is a welcome step that shows that this nation is alert to the problem.  India’s response is to be magnified on the global scale by developing globally viable strategies if global security and political stability and economic development are to continue in an undisturbed manner. 

Each new era on the global scene generates new opportunities and challenges which demand new perspectives and approaches if they are to be properly met. The history of the 20th century is replete with instances of the failure of meeting new situations with old outmoded policies and the consequent calamities that follow. Imperialistic ambitions led to two devastating world wars and the cold war between the Soviet and NATO blocks posed a risk to global security for 5 decades or more. The post cold war era requires new visionary perspectives that will allow a sound reexamination of the root causes of many global afflictions. The prospects for full employment in an era of fast spreading globalization and economic integration are one such issue. Piecemeal adjustments will not deliver the results at a time when radical new approaches are required. The World Academy is an ideal institution for coming up with the required visionary and comprehensive new approaches that will help meet the changed conditions of the world. 

Around 51 per cent of the combined population of developing and least developed countries is below the age of 25 (World Youth Report, 2005). About 76.6% of the youth (15-24 year old) in the world live in Asia and Africa and around 515 million of them are living on less than US$ 2 a day. Youth unemployment (ILO, 2003) was highest in Western Asia and North Africa (25.6 per cent) and sub-Saharan Africa (21 per cent) and lowest in East Asia (7 per cent) and the industrialized countries (13.4 per cent). We urgently need to be more creative and provide youths with information on the many ways to make a living and how to earn a livelihood. Formal education is traditionally advocated as the way out of poverty in many poor countries but isn’t providing an immediate answer to current problems in the cities. More than 50 % of the world population lives in cities now and by 2050 it will be 80 %. There will be greater competition for salaried jobs. Already many countries face the problem of insufficient jobs for university graduates and unemployed professionals. While the ability to read and write is essential, there are many ways where youths with primary education can create their own livelihoods through self-employment. 

Employment (unemployment and underemployment) is a problem everywhere and has worsened in recent years because of the global recession. As a result, the percentage and number of poor people in the world will increase and many of them will risk joining the “less than 2 US$ a day” category. 

Background to this conference

Over the past 15 years the Academy has examined various aspects and issues of the global employment challenge.

  • At the Minneapolis General Assembly in 1994, it discussed the findings and recommendations of the International Commission on Peace and Food regarding the factors and process responsible for the generation of employment opportunities and the prospects for achieving global full employment.
  • This was followed by a seminar on the Future of Work
  • A workshop at the Vancouver General Assembly
  • An international conference in New Delhi in 2004
  • A plenary session at the Zagreb General Assembly in 2005

Project Scope

This project combines and integrates both theoretical and practical aspects of the global employment issue. It consists of two complementary elements:

  • A trans-disciplinary exploration of the demographic, economic, political, psychological and legal dimensions relevant to global employment so that the magnitude of the impact of the current adversity can be properly assessed and suitable remedial measures can be developed.
  • An identification of effective policies, successful strategies, and best practices that can be adopted to ameliorate or eliminate the problem of unemployment in various parts of the world.

Major Questions

The GEC is intended to broadly address the following questions regarding employment globally. 

  • Is the trend toward rising levels of unemployment inevitable and irreversible?
  • What should be the responsibility of society and government with regard to provision of sufficient employment opportunities?
  • Should employment be recognized as a fundamental human right?  
  • Does the present socio-economic-political system contain inbuilt barriers to full employment?
  • What underutilized social resources exists that can be mobilized to achieve global full employment?
  • What best practices and innovative strategies can be adopted to enhance employment generation in developed and developing countries?
  • What special issues and remedies are needed to address the issue for youth, women and the poor?
  • What non-economic factors should be included in measures to achieve full employment?
  • What is the relationship between unemployment, social stability and social unrest?

Topics for Seminars, Papers and Discussions

This list contains a list of seminar topic touching on a different cross-disciplinary dimensions of the employment issue. GEC participants are invited to organize seminar sessions, prepare papers, make presentations and offer comments on these and related issues. 

Legal and moral basis for employment

  1. Do people have a legal and moral right to employment?
  2. What should be the responsibility of government at different levels for guaranteeing access to gainful employment opportunities?
  3. What mechanisms/strategies are available for supporting/enforcing this right?
  4. If all men are created equal, what are their rights? Is employment one?
  5. Does the recent experience of India with guaranteeing employment for the rural poor have relevance to other countries? 

Possibility of Full Employment

  1. Is full employment a realistic and achievable goal?
  2. What insights can be draw from history regarding the initial emergence of unemployment in society, periods and conditions under which it was absent or most aggravated and their relevance to the world today?
  3. Have there been societies that did not suffer from unemployment? Are there any lessons or essential truths that we can learn and apply based on their experience?
  4. Philosophically it is said every problem has a solution. Is that applicable to unemployment?
  5. Problems come to us for our progress. Is there truth in this statement with respect to employment? 

Society, Social Structure and Employment

  1. What is the relationship between political ideology, political systems and employment?
  2. What is the impact of social structure, attitudes and values on employment?
  3. How is unemployment related to the major powers of society, such as the power of money ?
  4. What employment challenges are generated by demographic changes, i.e. population growth in developing countries, aging of the population in OECD countries, migration, etc.
  5. What can be done to address the specific issues relating to employment for youth and women?
  6. What is the relationship between employment, social stability and social unrest (e.g. terrorism)?
  7. How far does prevailing policy with respect to employment reflect the historical tension between capitalism and socialism? Does the issue of full employment necessarily need to be couched in these terms?
  8. What lessons can be learned from the experience of communist countries that attempted to impose full employment by government fiat? 

Internet & Employment

  1. What new opportunities does the Internet open up for entrepreneurship, self-employment, and employment generation?
  2. What is the impact of technological development on employment and unemployment?
  3. How can advances in technology be utilized to create greater employment?
  4. Are the benefits of technological development effectively and equitably distributed in society? How should they be distributed in order to achieve maximum benefit to society-at-large?
  5. Has the Internet increased awareness of job opportunities and made getting a job more difficult ? 

Entrepreneurship, Employment & Self-employment

  1. What is the relationship between entrepreneurship and employment?
  2. What is the relative contribution to entrepreneurship to employment in OECD and developing countries?
  3. What means are available to foster entrepreneurship/self-employment?
  4. What is the role of Individuality in entrepreneurship and self-employment?
  5. What are the trends in entrepreneurship and self-employment in post-industrial/service economy?
  6. What social and psychological factors influence the propensity for entrepreneurship? Can they be enhanced? 

Social and Psychological basis for full employment

  1. What social resources contribute to growth in employment generation?
  2. What is the impact of social and cultural attitudes on employment, self-employment and dependence on the state
  3. What is the impact of social aspirations on employment?
  4. What is the impact of psychological attitudes on employment and self-employment? 

Education & Employment

  1. What is the relationship between education, skills and employment generation?
  2. Is education effectively preparing people for employment generation?
  3. Is their a gap between educational qualifications and the needs of the employment market? If so, what can be done to close the gap?
  4. Is their a gap between vocational skills and the needs of the employment market? If so, what can be done to close the gap?
  5. How can the educational system be reoriented to provide greater support for entrepreneurship, self-employment and employment generation?
  6. How could the Swedish experience (were the unions have special training centers and retraining sessions for their members, for upgrading skills and thus avoid unemployment or find new jobs when unemployed) be adopted by other countries? 

Development & Employment

  1. What is the relationship between society, development and employment?
  2. What are the long term global trends in employment generation and unemployment?
  3. Are there inherent limits in the capacity of society to generate employment?
  4. What will be the impact of demographic trends on the future of employment in OECD and developing countries?
  5. What are the root causes and remedies for unemployment?

Relationship between Globalization and Employment

  1. What is the relationship between trade and employment?
  2. What factors or trends are impacting global job markets?
  3. What is the relationship between international financial markets and global unemployment?
  4. To what extent is employment a national, regional or global issue?
  5. What factors are driving the globalization of employment markets? 

Best Policies, Practices and Success Stories

  1. Which countries have been most successful in addressing the challenge of employment and what lessons can be learned from their experience?