In August, Russia will host leaders from the 20 largest economies in the world – the G20 – for the 2013 G20 Summit. Although the event is several months away, there is much to be done before it can occur. And the Department of Labor has an important role to play.
The economic crisis of 2008 was catastrophic for tens of millions of working people in the United States and across the globe. Workers and their families lost their jobs, their benefits, and even their homes. For some, the hope of improving their own lives and creating a brighter future for their children all but vanished.
By 2009, the world’s leaders had stabilized the international financial markets and ensured that the global economy would not crash. Restoring jobs for those who were unemployed and creating new ones for the millions of young job seekers has nonetheless remained an enormous challenge, which calls for both proactive domestic policies and strong international cooperation.
To help address these issues, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs has been working with the labor and employment ministers of the G20. Meetings of these ministers, which started in 2010 in Washington at the suggestion of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, offer an opportunity to discuss the employment impact of the economic crisis and share experiences in preserving and creating good jobs, assisting the unemployed, and helping workers adapt to rapidly changing labor markets.
Subsequent meetings, in France in 2011 and Mexico in 2012, built upon previous themes and helped shape a dialogue both among the G20 labor ministers and with their leaders.
In 2011, the G20 leaders, recognizing that the employment outlook was particularly bleak for young people, created the G20 Task Force on Youth Employment to examine the demographic, economic, and other factors that needed to be addressed to improve the labor market for youth.
The discussions on youth employment showed that training was important but that significant progress would require sustained economic growth. As the discussion progressed, it became clear that this — like job creation, more broadly — was an issue that should be addressed not only by labor ministries, but by broader economic policymakers, as well.
This year, for the first time, preparation for the G20 leaders’ summit will include a joint meeting between labor and finance ministers to discuss employment in its broader economic context. ILAB will actively participate in this process, which will culminate in that joint meeting in July in Moscow to develop recommendations for the leaders’ meeting in August. Through this approach, we believe that we can shed greater light on the challenges faced by vulnerable workers and promote innovative approaches to improve job prospects for workers both around the world and here at home.
Carol Pier is acting deputy undersecretary for international labor affairs.