In observance of the World Day for Decent Work today, it’s more urgent than ever for the global community to consider measures that protect the interests of workers around the world while ensuring their access to fair and sustainable employment. With the world of work evolving rapidly, all affected parties must come together to focus on labor market reforms that reflect the current state of the global economy. 

Fair employment is a common desire for people everywhere. In fact, UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 8 – which was agreed upon by the global community in 2015 – aims to “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.” 

But what does decent work actually mean? The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines this as “productive work for women and men in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity.” In general, work is considered decent when it pays a fair income while guaranteeing a secure form of employment and safe working conditions.  

Diverse forms of work, like fixed-term, part-time and temporary agency employment, are acknowledged by global and European governmental institutions as forms of work that provide a combination of flexibility and security – worker-desired benefits. The latter is outlined in amongst other ILO Convention 181 and the European Agency Work Directive.

world day for decent work
world day for decent work

According to the ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook, which analyzes key labor market issues, 61% of the global workforce are employed informally, without any assurances of job security. In 2021, the global unemployment rate declined slightly to 6.2%, which is still well above the pre-pandemic rate of 5.4%. ILO forecasts that unemployment will remain above its 2019 level until at least 2023.

Lifelong employment with the same employer no longer exists. Nowadays, it is about lifetime employment. That means that access to work and social security must be defined and organized. This is what we call social innovation. Education, reskilling and up-skilling should form an integral part of this. This calls for establishing a holistic agenda in work, education and social security throughout one’s career path ensuring access to decent work at all times, regardless of the type of employment contract.

In 2020, 58 million individuals worldwide found job opportunities through private employment services. Our industry played a crucial role in mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 crisis; we supported healthcare service providers as well as testing and vaccination efforts. Next to that we continued to provide training opportunities, facilitate job switching within and out of sectors, foster inclusiveness, and provide supplementary access to social benefits. Randstad continues to invest in solutions that foster the creation of meaningful and decent work for all stakeholders.

All work needs to be well regulated so no one is left without opportunity to thrive in their careers. These regulations should apply to diverse forms of work. Achieving this requires a level playing field for all – a labor market that offers fair income, equal access to employment, and adequate social security to anyone who chooses to participate. 

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This calls for a holistic agenda in work, education and social security ensuring access to decent work at all times, regardless of the type of employment contract."

However, considerable differences exist in how markets regulate employment around the globe. Many still maintain unjustified restrictions on flexible work arrangements. As a result, those who engage in these forms of work often lack appropriate and fair regulatory and access to social protection, which may also lead to an unnecessarily large informal workforce. In addition, current social protection systems have changed little since the 1970s, whereas the labor market has evolved considerably. 

Political uncertainty, skyrocketing inflation and demographic changes impacting labor markets across the globe are resulting in labor shortages and skills mismatch. These problems are hampering economic growth, job creation and workforce development. Making sure decent work is available to all requires a community-based approach in which policy makers, employers, talent and other relevant stakeholders appropriately adapt to the changes that a dynamic world of work is forging. This means implementing balanced and appropriate regulations, managing expectations and ensuring talent have sufficient safeguards against unfair labor practices. 

This is why our priority is to help people everywhere realize their true potential and bring their unique abilities to the labor market. They will only do this when incentivized with decent and meaningful work offering job security and fair wages. During these challenging times, these are not easy goals to aspire to. But by working with all stakeholders to contribute toward this goal, we can ensure a sustainable and dynamic labor market that will serve as the cornerstone of a better society. 

To learn more about the future of decent work, I invite you to listen to a discussion I recently participated in on the Future Economies Start with Youth podcast by the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment.

about the author
Sonja van Lieshout
Sonja van Lieshout

Sonja van Lieshout

head of public affairs

Sonja is responsible for global public affairs with a focus on developing the global strategic public affairs agenda including advocacy, strategic stakeholder engagement and thought leadership. Her network consists of the ILO, OECD, European Institutions, business networks, think tanks, academia and social partners such as central employers organizations and Trade Unions. As a member of the global board of the World Employment Confederation and the Executive Committee, her main drive is strategically contributing to the development of the employment & recruitment industry on both a global and European level. Sonja also chairs the European Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on behalf of the employers and in her private life, she is a member of the Executive Board of the UP Foundation, focusing on the well-being of parents of special needs children.