G20 Labor and Employment Ministers Declaration: Important commitments on the Future of Work but lacking on sustainable supply chains

21 September 2018


On 7 September, the G20 Labor and Employment Ministers (LEMM) issued their 2018 LEMM Declaration, centered around fostering opportunities for an inclusive, fair, and sustainable Future of Work.

Under the 2018 Argentina Presidency, ICAR continued to promote business respect for human rights and corporate accountability within the G20. Over the past few months, ICAR and its regional and international partners issued a series of recommendations to the G20, including through the C20 Business and Human Rights sub-group declaration (informal Spanish translation available here) and the BHR Task Force joint letter.

ICAR welcomes the 2018 LEMM Declaration, which contains a number of important commitments in relation to the Future of Work. In addition, ICAR salutes the issuing of the first ever G20 Education and Employment Ministers Joint Declaration, which recognizes the need for coordinated education, employment, and social protection policies to respond to the challenges brought about by new forms of employment and work.

In particular, in relation to the Future of Work, the G20 Labor and Employment Ministers committed to:

  • Promoting effective social dialogue and engaging in multi-stakeholder dialogue in the developing and implementation of policies related to the Future of Work. They moreover committed to expanding social dialogue to reach all workers, and to promote collective bargaining;

  • Promoting decent work and labor formalization, including in the context of the platform economy. Recognizing the challenges linked to work in digital platforms, Ministers called for the development of guidelines drawing on existing international standards to close governance gaps in this sector. In particular, they committed to: promoting social dialogue and collective bargaining, clarifying these workers’ status and rights, considering the portability of entitlements and social security benefits, and ensuring that platform providers assume their responsibility in contributing to relevant social protection for these workers;

  • Promoting training opportunities for all workers, and supporting people to develop relevant skills through re-skilling and upskilling; and

  • Developing comprehensive social protection strategies which include promoting the effective portability of social security entitlements.

The Declaration does not, however, provide any detail regarding companies’ responsibilities in the context of the Future of Work, and in particular of the transition to automation and mechanization of production processes, which threatens jobs and social protections in global supply chains. Encouraging companies to fully integrate the impacts of automation in their human rights due diligence processes, including by developing plans to ensure responsible and inclusive automation, could have been an effective way to unpack companies’ responsibilities in this context. In addition, G20 Labor and Employment Ministers committed to developing comprehensive social protection strategies, but they did not explicitly refer to unemployment protections in the Declaration.

Moreover, ICAR is concerned by the weakness of the 2018 LEEM Declaration’s commitments in relation to the promotion of responsible and sustainable global supply chains, and regrets seeing a regression compared to the 2017 LEEM Declaration.

The Labor and Employment Ministers committed to continue implementing commitments made in the 2017 LEEM Declaration, and elaborated a “G20 Strategy to eradicate child labour, forced labour, human trafficking and modern slavery in the world of work” (Annex 2). Worryingly, the 2018 Declaration contains no mention of access to remedy, nor of non-judicial grievance mechanisms, such as OECD National Contact Points (NCPs). The G20 missed an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of providing access to remedy, and to outline concrete and ambitious measures to improve NCPs, notably in relation to the implementation of peer-review recommendations, the strengthening of the Procedural Guidance, and the introduction of material consequences in case of non-compliance. Moreover, while the 2018 LEEM Declaration recognizes the need to promote fair and decent wages in supply chains and that addressing income inequalities is central to achieving better jobs, more inclusive societies, and stronger economic growth, it does not explicitly reference the promotion of a living wage. In a declaration aspiring to foster opportunities for an inclusive, fair, and sustainable Future of Work, it is regrettable to have left aside the crucial issue of living wages. Finally, the Declaration contains no commitments related to the issue of health and safety within global supply chains.

In order to live up to its ambition of achieving people-centered, fair, and sustainable development, the G20 must build on past commitments, and take ambitious measures contributing to establishing a rights-based global economy.