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Poverty: The ILO’s Overwhelming Report

Waltzing Matilda | 12.06.2003 20:28

By Laurent Mossu
Le Figaro
Monday 09 June 2003

Growth first, redistribution afterward. The dominant message’s logic is inescapable except that, while redistribution waits, social cohesion is threatened. For the Director General (DG) of the International Labor
Organization (ILO) this is how peoples lose the hope they have placed in their governments and institutions.

In a report devoted to the fight against poverty, the DG emphasizes that only the first stage of globalization has been put into effect. A source of wealth and well-being for some, globalization has been "a cause of the persistence of inequalities and exclusion" for others. The paper will be submitted this Monday in Geneva to the International Labor
Conference, which brings together 3000 delegates representing governments, employers, and workers.

The ILO fears heavy consequences, not only social, but also political, as a result of the phenomenon. Supported by a study conducted in Latin America, the Director General records that faith in democracy is in significant retreat. At the rate things are going, declares Juan Somavia, Millennium development objectives, specifically to reduce
poverty by 50% from now to 2015, are doomed to failure. Of three billion human beings who live on less than two dollars a day, one billion subsist on half that. The gap between the incomes of the rich and the poor only gets wider: in 1960 the income of the richest fifth of the
world’s population was 30 times that of the poorest fifth. The relationship moved to 74 to 1 in 1999.

Declared unemployment affects 180 million people. And it continues to increase everywhere. Moreover, this figure masks the even greater problem of under-employment. The labor market is growing by 50 million people annually as new entrants vastly outnumber those who leave the market. In the upcoming ten years, more than a billion young people,
5-15 years-old now, will swell the ranks of the active population.

The persistence of poverty in our age testifies to moral failure and a retreat in fundamental human values, Juan Somavia bears further witness. It is a result of structural problems and inefficient economic and social systems. The only solution: to adopt policies which produce what he calls "decent labor dividends". Which omits the preferment and support of companies.

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