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‘New tech’ business model threatens decent work conditions

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Unemployment is down globally but workers’ conditions have not improved, the UN said on Wednesday, warning that some businesses driven by new technology “threaten to undermine” hard-won social gains of recent decades.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), most of the 3.3 billion people employed worldwide in 2018 did not enjoy adequate levels of economic security, and lacked sufficient material well-being as well as too few opportunities for advancement.

In total, 172 million people were jobless last year – one in 20 individuals of working age – ILO’s Trends in Global Employment 2019 report shows.

This unemployment rate, which has only just returned to levels last seen before the 2008-9 financial crisis, is not expected to change this year or next, assuming stable global economic conditions; although current uncertainty is “already having a negative effect on the labour market” in upper middle-income countries, it says.

Nonetheless, “being in employment does not always guarantee a decent living,” said Damian Grimshaw, ILO Director of Research. “A full 700 million people are living in extreme or moderate poverty despite having employment.”

Fewer working-poor…in middle-income countries

On a positive note, the ILO report highlights that working poverty has decreased in middle-income countries over the past three decades, although poorer nations are likely to see a rise in the number of working poor.

This is because the pace of poverty reduction is not expected to keep up with employment growth in these emerging economies, despite China’s major contribution in reducing the working poor levels as a result of strong economic growth since 1993.

The ILO data also shows that 360 million people in 2018 worked in a family business and 1.1 billion worked for themselves – often in subsistence activities because of an absence of job opportunities in the formal sector and/or the lack of a social protection system.

Workers ‘unable to find more work or too discouraged to look’

Linked to the challenge of bringing down unemployment, the UN report identifies a lack of opportunity for those who want to work.

This includes those who would like to make the jump from part-time to full-time work and the long-term jobless, who become so discouraged that they stop looking.

Taken together, poor workplace conditions, unemployment and gender inequality have contributed to slower-than-anticipated progress in achieving the key development goal of sustainable work for all, as set out in the 2030 Agenda.

Under 48 per cent of women work, versus 75 per cent of men

Among the most striking labour issues in the report is the continued lack of progress made in closing the gender gap at work, with less than 50 per cent of women in the labour force in 2018, compared with three quarters of men.

This problem is universal, ILO maintains, although the gender gap is widest in the Arab States, Northern Africa and Southern Asia.

Another challenge is the size of the informal sector – a “staggering” two billion workers, or 61 per cent of the world’s workforce. “Informal employment is the reality for the majority of workers worldwide,” ILO notes.

Also of concern is the fact that more than one in five people under 25 years old are not in employment, education or training; part of 15 per cent decline between 1993 and 2018 that is set to continue.

Innovative technology threatens to undermine rights at work

Noting how a country’s level of development is linked to the availability of reasonably paid work or adequate welfare protection for those who need it, the report cautions that these and other labour market achievements “are still elusive” for many.

“Securing these gains is therefore a major challenge that policy-makers must face up to,” the ILO WESO report insists, noting also that innovative technologies “threaten to undermine” these labour market achievements and others, such as job security, collective bargaining and compliance with labour standards and rights at work.

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UNIDO and Italy further strengthen cooperation with focus on Africa and innovative partnerships

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The Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), LI Yong, spoke at the opening ceremony of the ‘International Cooperation Expo: job creation and innovation for sustainable development’ (EXCO 2019), which was organized under the patronage of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, the European Commission and IFAD.

“I welcome the organization of the EXCO, as it is very clear that the ambitious goals of the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved by one country or by one institution alone,” said Li. “Our experience shows that a multilateral approach, and particularly working in partnerships, is key to addressing these challenges.”

The UNIDO Director General then opened the UNIDO International Award Ceremony, ‘Innovative ideas and technology on agribusiness’, as well as the ‘EXCO 2019 Hackathon: solutions for sustainable development’, with both also taking place in the Fiera di Roma. Organized by the UNIDO Investment and Technology Promotion Office (ITPO) in Italy jointly with the Future Food Institute, the Award Ceremony invited submissions of the best technologies and the most innovative and sustainable worldwide solutions in the agriculture and agro-industry sectors.

“The role of UNIDO and in particular the interventions by our ITPO network to transfer new technologies and sustainable production models including investments are fundamental to overcome barriers and help countries achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda,” said the UNIDO Director General. “Indeed, this award aims to support developing countries with innovative models to increase production in a sustainable manner and to build a resilient agribusiness environment.”

Li also met with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Emanuela Claudia Del Re, to discuss scaling-up interventions in the agribusiness sector, including with long-standing private sector partners such as Illy Caffé, also how to benefit from the important expertise and interest of the Italian private sector. During their meeting, the Director General and the Deputy Minister also discussed opportunities to diversify the ongoing cooperation to new sectors of mutual interest, such as energy and the environment.

“The significant and vital relationships between UNIDO and the Italian Government for implementing development initiatives in the partner countries of the Italian Development Cooperation have been reviewed,” said Del Re. “From the Italian side, interest has been shown toward the new approach set by UNIDO in defining integrated projects with the private sector, such as the new initiative ‘UNIDO partnership model for de- risking investments in the Ethiopian coffee sector’.”

The UNIDO Director General also met Executive Vice President of ENI, Alberto Piatti, together with Director General of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Giorgio Marrapodi, to explore cooperation opportunities, notably in the field of applied research on energy as well as agro-value chains.

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Small Business in Kosovo to Gain Improved Access to Finance with World Bank Support

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The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved the Kosovo Financial Sector Strengthening Project, to improve access to finance for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), including startups, young entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses, by strengthening the financial and technical capacity of the Kosovo Credit Guarantee Fund (KCGF). The financial support for the project is €22.3 million ($25 million equivalent).

“The World Bank is pleased to support Kosovo authorities’ efforts to increase access to finance and ultimately enhance private sector job creation,” said Marco Mantovanelli, World Bank Country Manager for Kosovo.

The project will provide funds through the Ministry of Finance to KCGF to issue credit guarantees to support access to finance to MSMEs. As these types of businesses dominate the real economy and the labor market, improving their access to finance will support job creation and economic growth. With a focus on the underserved and productive segments of the economy, the project has the potential to directly impact poverty reduction, especially among youth and women. Currently, some creditworthy MSMEs do not have access to finance due to high collateral requirements, lack of credit history, or lack of financial reporting. The project will focus on these firms along with improving financial terms for firms who already have access to finance. It also aims to crowd in private sector funds to financing MSMEs by providing support to the partial guarantee scheme.

The project will support KCGF to develop special products targeted to women-owned businesses, startups and young entrepreneurs and develop monitoring and evaluation framework to track financial and economic impact of beneficiaries of KCGF.

This initiative is financed with a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank Group. IDA credits are provided on concessional terms with zero or very low interest rates and long repayment periods. The financing for this project has a maturity of 30 years, including a 5-year grace period. The KCGF, a local, independent, sustainable, credit guarantee facility, will be responsible for the implementation of the project. KCGF enjoys full operational and administrative autonomy. It offers credit guarantees to Registered Financial Institutions on selected loans to MSMEs.

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ADB Marks International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) for the first time by hosting two events over 2 days at ADB headquarters in Manila.

“ADB supports LGBT+ inclusion within and outside its organization. We are committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce where everyone is treated with respect regardless of gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, and thinking style. We recognize that the promotion and strengthening of diversity, inclusion, and equality at ADB is critical to our effectiveness as an organization,” said ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao.

On 16 May, IBM Philippines President and Country General Manager Ms. Aileen Judan-Jiao made a presentation on IBM’s programs and initiatives to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace for all employees, including for those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and related communities (LGBT+).

ADB hosted a panel discussion on 17 May, which brought together ADB experts and civil society representatives to discuss ways to promote the inclusion of LGBT+ communities in ADB operations. The panel members included civil society leaders from APCOM, the Asia Pacific LGBT+ health and rights organization, and Babaylanes, the Philippines LGBT+ student and youth organization. 

The inclusion of vulnerable groups in societies, including LGBT+ people, is critical to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable region, as envisioned in ADB’s Strategy 2030.

IDAHOT promotes inclusion and recognizes efforts to overcome the exclusion, discrimination, and violence that the LGBT+ community continues to experience in many parts of the world, including in Asia and the Pacific. IDAHOT recognizes the significant progress that has been made towards equality in many parts of the world. The date of 17 May was chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

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