The multilateral system fosters employment and sustainable development.

Globalization and technological development are changing both the labour market and the traditional concept of work. How does the rule-based multilateral system keep up with the ever-accelerating change?

President Tarja Halonen participated in the Future of Work Summit in Geneva.
President Tarja Halonen participated in the Future of Work Summit in Geneva.

President Tarja Halonen stated that the multilateral system is essential for sustainable development.  

“The effects of globalization are spreading across transnational boundaries and the impacts are much larger than the issues defined in the UN Sustainable Development 2030 Agenda. Both small and large countries benefit from multilateralism and cooperation, as they cannot control the current development alone,” she estimates

Halonen participated in the panel discussion organized by Finland in cooperation with Switzerland, Ireland and the EU Delegation. The Future of Work Summit focused on turning the challenges of future work into opportunities in a sustainable and inclusive way.

The event workshops included the following topics: life-long learning, new forms of work, social dialogue and the international governance of work.


Reforming labour laws

Thanks to technological developments, companies will be able to operate across national borders more easily. Due to rapid change, there will be new types of jobs and employment contracts that may fall outside the old system.

Unfortunately, some may try to take advantage of the uncertainty. "When operating outside of the achieved interests of employees, it means that all provisions cannot be applied, or they have not been followed in work places. The situation creates uncertainty for both individuals and companies,” Halonen stated.

She said that decent work should not only allow individuals to support themselves financially but also be meaningful.

We need to reform the labour laws so that all can benefit from decent work. “I hope that these new regulations will be developed in cooperation with all parties, both nationally and internationally. The ILO, with its expertise, can lead the way.”


Focus on the environment

In the early 2000s, Halonen co-chaired an ILO committee that was writing a report on the social dimension of globalization.


She said the work of the organization has been of great importance to both emerging economies and industrialized societies. The ILO has helped developing countries transform into modern, more socially equal societies by supporting democracy, human rights and good governance. Globalization also impacts industrialized countries.

According to Halonen, a dialogue between different policy areas, such as employment, economic and social policy, is essential for balanced development.

"I hope that the ILO will be able to steer development in a more balanced direction by promoting social justice, economic stability and growth, taking into account the principles of sustainable development."

The troubled world with its armed conflicts effectively ruins both working life and work equality.

“Peace in society is an important factor. Forcing peace, in any part of the world, is the wrong approach. We need to find ways to build an effective dialogue, both nationally and internationally.”


Gender equality supports development

Halonen pointed out that gender equality is recognised as a precondition for sustainable development and the structure of modern society.

"Gender equality is improving, but as a result of economic and social changes, we have to fight over and over for the benefits we have already achieved," she estimated.

The issue is also linked to the country's general development. "We can demand much more, for example, from European countries than from emerging economies," she added.

“I hope the ILO and other UN special agencies take advantage of the trend. Co-operation between these organizations is a key factor of development. The ILO is celebrating its 100th anniversary and Finland currently holds the EU Presidency, so I hope we will continue to have a good debate,” she concluded.

Text : Vesa Puoskari