ILO launches a campaign to create “decent work”” [Archives:2008/1178/Reportage]”

August 4 2008

Almigdad Mojalli
The International Labor Organization, known as the ILO, launched the Decent Work Country Program (DWCP) in the Republic of Yemen last week. This program is the result of a collaborative three-party agreement with the ILO, the Yemeni government and leaders in the field of labor and businesses.

The Decent Work Country Program is a vehicle to ensure opportunities for men and women to obtain work in an environment of freedom, equality, security and human dignity while contributing to poverty alleviation and the overall development in the country.

The DWCP aims to support the existing policy framework, while integrating new ideas to help the workforce. By combining national development plans with new priorities, DWCP can address the challenges of enhancing governance and the legislative environment, improve the national capacity for increasing effectiveness, and extend coverage of social protection to Yemeni workers. Besides this, the DWCP will improve the government's capacity to generate new employment opportunities.

The DWCP defines priorities based on an analysis of pre-existing labor issues and identifies goals to be achieved and strategies for implementation during the period 2008 through 2010. The DWCP was drafted in close coordination with tripartite social partners, namely the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, the General Federation of Workers Trade Unions and The Federation of Yemeni Chambers of Commerce and Industry. It reflects constituent priorities articulated during the DWCP drafting process, which involve extensive consultations with social partners. Social dialogue and active participation are central to the design, implementation and monitoring of the DWCP.

Yemen and the DWCP

While Yemen has ratified 29 different ILO conventions, in practice the national labor practices rarely conform to international standards. In 2007, the United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) ranked Yemen 153 out of 177 countries, identifying it as a problem country on the Human Development Index.

Yemen confronts serious challenges to human development, including a high poverty rate, estimated to be around 42 percent today, and the insufficient creation of jobs which has led to increasing unemployment in the country. In order to decrease unemployment, 188,000 new jobs must be created annually. The predominance of temporary, unregulated, informal employment, mainly in agriculture, undermines social protection and safety in the workplace. Child labor remains widespread, particularly in its worst forms.

Broad gender disparities – women account for only 21.8 percent of the labor force – and rampant gender discrimination in the workplace contribute to the problem.

Weak labor administration and inspection capacities make the monitoring of labor conditions and enforcement of labor laws extremely difficult, and significant restrictions remain against employee rights of association, organization and collective bargaining (unionizing).

The DWCP lays out three main issues of priority for intervention as the most urgent development issues currently facing Yemen.

The three priorities are improving governance and legislative environment for compliance with international labor standards, improving national capacities to increase effectiveness and extend coverage of social protection and the improvement of the government's capacity to generate new employment opportunities.

According to Nada Al-Nashef, the regional manager of ILO, women's issues have been integrated into the priorities of DWCP based on past cooperation and achievements by the organization towards promoting and developing women's employment.

With regards to child labor, Al-Nashef stated that the future plan will focus on integrating child issues into the DWCP through implementing international labor standards and promoting the abilities of labor inspectors. She added that they will integrate the national strategy of eradicating child labor in the frame of wider policies. A coordinated approach to institutional capacity-building will be promoted to enhance the capacities of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, employer and worker organizations, and other stakeholders relevant to the achievement of Yemen's national development goals in labor, employment issues, and poverty reduction.

As the first DWCP for Yemen, this program will have an initial duration of three years.

To highlight the importance of decent work conditions for the goals of poverty reduction and sustainable development, a communications strategy will be developed to promote the DWCP in Yemen. Messages and products will be developed in Arabic to equip policymakers as well as affected ministries and civil society partners with the materials to promote decent work practices at the national and governorate levels.

To translate the priorities articulated in the DWCP into reality, an implementation plan will be developed and will constitute the primary tool for monitoring and reporting. The implementation plan will define the necessary activities, timelines, resources needed, and indicators of completion and will be updated regularly. A tripartite committee will be established to monitor the DWCP, with a national team appointed by Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor to ensure the coordination of activities with ILO.

A result-based monitoring system will be established, specifying indicators, targets and data collection methodology, in order to measure progress and recognize success. All indicators will be sex-disaggregated. A biennial country program review will be undertaken and there will be annual self-evaluations, as well as independent evaluations to ensure that lessons learned during the assessment and evaluation process are used to self-correct and adjust the implementation plan where necessary.

The ILO also celebrated the launch of the National Employment Strategy last week, which focused on achieving economic development, creating active policies for the labor market and increasing social protection.

The strategy includes the youth program, “Know about Business,” which encourages youth to go to training and vocational institutes while providing the necessary knowledge for implementing small business projects.

Al-Nashef explained that the ILO and its partners are trying to strengthen the coverage of social protection to include as many laborers and their families as possible through two ways.

The first strategy is to provide support for the government to promote the social insurance programs.

The second way is to widen the coverage of social protection for laborers in Yemen's irregular economy.

Though the government