The Honorable Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International labor Organization, Distinguished Heads of States, and delegates of workers, employers and governments from all continents,
I am grateful for ILO’s efforts to pursue a human-centered recovery from COVID-19 crisis, and find it truly meaningful to join the World of Work Summit as a representative of the Asia Pacific region.
For the last century, the ILO has helped people to work in freedom and dignity and enjoy economic stability and equal opportunities, and stood at the forefront of creating jobs and advancing workers’ fundamental rights. Even over the course of overcoming the COVID-19 crisis, it called for an inclusive recovery through social dialogue by holding the Global Summit last year with tripartite delegates.
I hope at today’s summit, convened to safeguard the value of labor
and create a ‘world with work’, we will pool our wisdom and forces together to prevent inequalities of work in the post COVID-19 era.
Director-General, Fellow Leaders and tripartite delegates,
Labor is a source that keeps us alive. A job that gives us work is a foundation that sustains our life. It is through labor we connect to one another in society, self-actualize, and find a life’s worth and meaning.
The world has increased quantity and quality of jobs through economic development. And workers have advanced their rights and value of labor
through struggle. The Declaration of Philadelphia in 1944 that urged full employment and the raising of living standards still resonates in many people’s hearts.
Job creation has now become a universal key policy objective. I myself have done my utmost to create more quality jobs from the very early days of my term because I believe a job is the engine of growth and the best form of welfare. The Korean Government has overhauled various tax systems and budget programs in a way that can help create more jobs, reduced long working hours, and dramatically increased minimum wage, seeking an inclusive and income-led growth. Moreover, we have ratified ILO fundamental Conventions through social dialogue, sought conversion to regular jobs for non-regular workers, reduced disparities in labor market, and moved toward a society that respects labor one step at a time.
However, last year, the entire world was struck by the global pandemic. And it was our work and jobs that were hardest hit. More 100 million people lost their jobs across the world. If you consider the impact of
restricted operating hours and reduction of working hours, over 250 million full-time jobs disappeared. We were hit multiple time harder this time than the global financial crisis. A bigger problem is that the employment crisis is more brutal on the vulnerable. Youth entering the labor market for the first time, women working in in-person service industries, and temporary and daily workers with little protection were the first ones hit by the crisis.
Although the global economy is recovering with the supply of vaccines across the world, the job crisis is still ongoing. Considering that employment is a lagging factor of economy, difficult times in the labor market might persist for quite a time.
It is therefore high time that we join ILO’s efforts to pursue a human-centered recovery while securing jobs.
Director-General, Distinguished delegates,
We have to swiftly overcome the current crisis and return to our normal days. However, the recovery should not stop at one person, one business or one country. Only when every person, every business and every country recovers from the crisis, can we secure jobs and prevent inequalities from worsening.
The key to overcoming economic hardships wrought by COVID-19 contraction of in-person businesses, loss of job and income, and inequalities, is an inclusive jobs recovery. It is vitally important that we protect the workers from transformative changes already happenings in the labor market. This is the essence of a ‘human-centered recovery’ promoted by the ILO, the only of kind that is sustainable and resilient. And such recovery cannot be achieved by the efforts of one single economic entity. Neither can we leave it to the market alone. We are at a critical juncture where we have to practice the ‘ILO Centenary Declaration’ a tripartite commitment to decent work for all.
Korea was one of the first countries hit by COVID-19, but the Korean people became main actors of infectious disease control measures, and we were able to balance our daily lives with control measures while keeping our neighbors safe in the spirit of solidarity and cooperation.
Korea also demonstrated the spirit of solidarity and cooperation, and sharing and inclusiveness, when tackling the job crisis. In July last year, when our economy and employment shrunk considerably, representatives of workers and employers could save jobs because they choose leave of absence and shorter working hours over layoffs.
Korea has consistently worked to spread ‘a mutually-beneficial local jobs’ model whereby workers and businesses, local residents and governments create new jobs through concessions and cooperation. Among various examples, the ‘Gwangju Win-Win Regional Job Project’ made a noticeable achievement even amidst the coronavirus crisis. They built the first finished vehicle assembly plant in Korea in over 23 years. An ‘Agreement on Mutually Beneficial Job Creation’ was signed in eight different regions, and workers, employers and local governments have worked hand in hand to overcome the job crisis and are making around 130,000 jobs with a total of $46 billion.
The government has been actively backing their efforts as well. In order to share labor costs of companies, we dramatically expanded employment retention subsidies. And by financing jobs for the underprivileged,
we are making sure that the public sector buttresses job market.
The unemployed are now better protected with unemployment assistance
and universal employment insurance. Welfare benefits go to a wider population with an end to the family support obligation criteria for living allowances and introduction of sickness allowances. We will continue to build stronger employment and social safety nets not to repeat the past experience where crisis beget more inequalities.
Director-General, Distinguished Leaders and delegates,
When we overcome the current crisis and create more decent jobs in the process, we will be able to call it a ‘real human-centered recovery’. The coronavirus is accelerating our transition to digital and green economy, and bringing new opportunities to the future of jobs. New services using data and network are emerging in markets. With an increasing number of companies joining low-carbon transition through ESG management, jobs are rapidly being created in new technology and industry areas.
In order to rise to challenges posed in the post-COVID-19 era and turn them into opportunities, Korea is implementing ‘Korean New Deal’ that invests 140 billion dollars in related industries. We aim to create 1.9 million new jobs by 2025 in digital and green industries. In the face of increasingly rapidly changing economic and social structures, we will work to achieve a transition to a fairer society so that every member can enjoy opportunities of better jobs.
By cultivating competent talents in software, AI and green technology, we will shore up the growth of new industries. By revamping job training program and providing better public employment service, we will help people to smoothly move to new jobs.
Various new forms of employment relationship such as platform work are spreading in the process of creating new jobs. There is an increasing need for us to complement the existing labor protection system that draws a strict line between employees and employers. For the past century, we have strived to expand workers’ rights by establishing international labor standards. I hope that we continue to work together,
with ILO playing a central role, to find a solution that will turn our efforts into concrete achievements.
Director-General, Distinguished Leaders and delegates,
In the midst of the unprecedented global health crisis, we could minimize the loss of our daily lives by depending on each other’s work. The coronavirus has paradoxically reminded us of the value of those who work in the areas that went unnoticed. We now call them ‘essential workers’. Each county is beginning to awaken to the fact that improving the treatment of essential workers is in the interests of the entire community. Nevertheless, what we are doing is far from enough.
A human-centered recovery starts from giving a fair credit to labor and working together to create more decent jobs. Only through a ‘human-centered recovery’ can we build a ‘people-centered economy’. Let us put people at the center as we overcome the COVID-19 crisis and create better jobs and embark on a path of solidarity and cooperation, and sharing and inclusiveness.