CONCRETE measures to help more people access decent employment opportunities were on the agenda as senior labour officials from the governments of the 10 Asean member states met yesterday in the Laotian capital.
They met to develop a regional action plan on the Vientiane Declaration on Transition from Informal Employment to Formal Employment towards Decent Work Promotion in Asean adopted during the 28th and 29th Asean Summits last September in Vientiane.
The Vientiane Declaration is considered a significant vehicle to facilitate contributions and coordinating support towards realisation of the Asean Vision 2016-2025 and the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 of the United Nations.
In support of the declaration, the regional action plan is set to outline various steps required to promote sustainable economic growth, employment, labour productivity and decent work with the aim to strengthen life-long learning, skills development and public-private partnerships for training and retraining of workers.
Collaboration is sought with the private sector to foment innovation, diversification of business, labour skills and new knowledge for the workforce and registered business sectors.
This is sought in order to create favourable conditions for income generation contributing to the elimination of poverty in the Asean region.
Creating opportunities for more employment in formal sectors as well as addressing the imbalance in development between urban and rural areas are considered the key focus areas.
“Transition from informal employment to formal employment towards decent work promotion in Asean will promote effective and sound policy and mechanisms to support production activities, facilitating employment, promoting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises’ development, including access to financial service,” Chomyaeng Phengthongsawat, deputy director-general of the Planning and International Cooperation Department of the Laotian Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, told the audience.
He said another main objective was to protect workers, including migrant labourers, in informal sectors, with regard to security and a safe working environment.
This applied especially to women and those working in risky and hazardous environments, who should be able to access treatment for injuries if required while securing a basic income.
According to the Vientiane Declaration, state signatories are committed to strive towards elimination of forced labour, child labour, violence at the workplace and all forms of discrimination including gender inequality.
They have also agreed to promote joint work and sharing of best practices as well as methodologies among Asean member states and possibly with dialogue partners in assessing the factors, characteristics and circumstances of informality in employment in respective national contexts.
They vowed to collaborate on inputs to the design and implementation of laws, policies and other measures aiming to facilitate the transition from informal to formal employment in all economic sectors, particularly in rural and remote areas.
According to the International Labour Organisation, the informal economy comprises half to three-quarters of all non-agricultural employment in developing countries, with women, migrants and other marginalised groups more likely to rely on such employment.
“Characteristic features of informal employment are lack |of protection in the event of |non-payment of wages, com-|pulsory overtime or extra shifts, layoffs without notice or compensation, unsafe working conditions and the absence of social benefits such as pensions, sick pay and health insurance,” the ILO says.