Labour and Human Resource Department, Government of the Punjab with the support of the Federal Government and in collaboration with the ILO and EU organized South Asia Labour Conference, 2014 at Lahore from 24-26 April, 2014 with the purpose to enhance cooperation among South Asian Countries for joint initiatives to improve Labour Market Management and Labour Market Policies in the region.
The event proved very successful as the delegates took keen interest in all thematic areas and actively involved in the focused discussion over policy interventions in the areas of skill development, productive employment generation for youth, effective measures to address the issues of vulnerable workers (child labour, bonded labour and women workers), social protection, productivity, rationalization and harmonization of labour laws with International Labour Standards (ILS) and migration. Apart from specific recommendations, the Conference concluded with the suggestions of regional researches, knowledge-sharing, continuous dialogue and thematic consultations, institutional mechanism, including establishment of working groups, promotion of evidence-based advocacy as well as promoting bilateral and multi-lateral partnerships, collaboration with existing regional institutions and initiatives for creating synergies and better coordination. The Conference was structured to ensure fulfilment of these objectives. The three day convention had a formal format keeping in view the diversity of the themes, limited time, and convenience of international delegates and productivity of the overall Conference.
Over the past few decades, a fundamental paradigm shift has occurred across the world economy. Today national economies have become more closely integrated into an interdependent global economic system, and there is a growing appreciation for development of all aspects associated with human resource management. Global economy has not only created new opportunities, but has also thrown up new challenges to business managers. Development of human resource which has become critical to the success of organizations, regardless of their size, is most significant of these challenges.
Labour Markets in South Asia Countries have a number of commonalities - which demands that the Region should come up with a common understanding and strategy to properly govern its labour market, enhance labour productivity and ensure provision of decent working conditions in line with international labour standards. These countries are endowed with large labour force – a sizeable portion of which migrates to other countries for jobs. They have mostly rural economies – dependent on agriculture, mostly small and unproductive landholdings, relatively higher rural to urban migration, growth of self-employment and shrinking wage-employments. The Region has slow growth of manufacturing sector with dominance of agro-based industries (textiles, leather etc.). Generally women in all countries have started to compete with men for jobs but they need more exposure, skill and government support to get their due share in labour markets. Young population in these countries is also growing and catalysing demands for jobs. All these countries, therefore, need to make investment in the growing young population to transform them into an engine of economic growth.
The development strategies of nations usually define their socioeconomic growth rates. These strategies mostly respond to the challenge of unemployment which results in social exclusion of large sections of the society. If manpower development is kept high on agenda then many other associated problems such as unemployment, urbanization, globalization and demographic shifts in population can also be addressed. Development strategies should inter-alia aim to scale up skills and improve access to education for both women and men. This could help countries move to a virtuous circle of higher labour productivity, more employment and income generation opportunities and sustainable socio-economic development.
To identify common gaps in Labour Market Governance, compliance with International Labour Standards and Labour Productivity in South Asian Region.
To explore possibility of creating joint Regional Strategies to improve labour productivity and enhance labour-competitiveness in the Region.
To explore opportunities to share and learn best labour practices from participating countries.
To showcase initiatives of the Government of Punjab to improve labour legislation in line with international conventions particularly with respect to Gender, Child and Bonded Labour and , Health & Occupational Safety.
To provide a platform to other countries of the region to showcase their initiatives for promotion of labour welfare.
2.1.Improve compliance, effectiveness and implementation of labour laws through consensus
2.2.Strengthen institutional arrangements, tripartite dialogue and representation of industry and workers
2.3.Ensure domestic implementation of international agreements (e.g. GSP+, FTA, BTIs)
2.4.Address barriers to donor support for SAARC to engage at the regional level to promote working conditions, productivity and competitiveness
2.5.Increase awareness of labour laws
3.Labour Market Information for Evidence Based Policies & Laws
3.1.National governments in South Asia should request that SAARC accord greater priority to labour and employment issues including LMI and strengthening of LMI systems in the region
3.2.Each SAARC country should identify a focal department or organisation to have responsibility for developing and strengthening each national LMIS
3.3.National LMIS focal agency should develop national action plans that include priorities for LMIS development including capacity building needs.
4.1.Labour Migration should be on the SAARC agenda, with more frequent labour migration meetings for workers
4.2.Training, regularisation and annual grading of recruitment agencies
4.3.Research on migration-related labour market issues
4.4.Joint mechanism should be developed to facilitate and create awareness of employment opportunities abroad for youth
5.Occupational Safety & Health
5.1.Speedy enactment of separate unified fire and OSH legislation, covering all workers in both formal and informal sectors
5.2.Promotion of cooperation and sharing of OSH knowledge and good practices amongst SAARC region and other countries
5.3.Development and implementation of OSH policies and management systems at both national and enterprise level in line with ILO conventions and guidelines
5.4.Development and standardisation of OSH curricula
6.1.Promote the agenda for national floors of social protection (ILO R 202), ensuring universal access to essential health care and basic income security
6.2.Call on the relevant SAARC bodies to formulate a mechanism to support knowledge generation
6.3.Set-up a working group under the SAARC mechanism on social protection
7.Protection of Vulnerable Workers (Child Labour, Bonded Labour, Women)
7.1.Consistent and inclusive terminology related to children, women and the third gender
7.2.South Asian advocacy campaigns
7.3.Establish an inter-governmental Working Group/ Apex Body on the Promotion of Decent Work in South Asia
To implement the above recommendations, the following way forward was proposed:
1.Knowledge-Creation & Sharing
1.1.Regional level research to fill knowledge gaps
1.2.Regional-level knowledge sharing and capacity building on key labour issues
1.3.Continue dialogue on the relationship between working conditions, productivity and competitiveness
1.4.Hold periodic thematic consultations in South Asia to review challenges and progress
a. Establishment of
1.4.1.Tripartite SAARC labour forum
1.4.2.Labour information exchange centre
1.4.3.Regional body to coordinate and promote dialogue, research, policy and sharing of best practices
b. Institutional Mechanisms
2.Establishment of working groups for follow-up and implementation of the recommendations
2.1.Evidence-based advocacy on best labour practices in South-Asia
2. 2.Call on bilateral and multilateral partners to support regional efforts on labour
Explore collaborations with key regional bodies to move forward on the recommendations including establishment of a SAARC Development Fund for Labour and partnerships with SAIEVAC, SAARCLAW, SAARC statistics group, SAARC gender information base (VAW, health and feminisation of poverty), SAARC gender policy advocacy, SAARC chambers of commerce and industries, HOMENET South Asia/ South East Asia, and SA alliance for poverty alleviation.
In the second stage of Endorsement Session, the senior-most delegates from each attending South-Asian country held a detailed discussion on the overall outcome of the Conference and agreed on a joint declaration.