ASEAN labour ministers discuss initiative to build capacity to manage future of work
A new ASEAN initiative is in the works to boost the region’s ability to prepare for the changing nature of work. The idea of a Future of Work Regional Initiative was mooted by Singapore and discussed by ASEAN labour ministers at a conference in Singapore on Monday.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said at the opening ceremony of the conference that Singapore believes it will benefit ASEAN to bring together international experts and regional stakeholders to share and develop the region’s capabilities through workshops, seminars and courses. “We will need a platform for ASEAN to continuously learn from each other, build capacity and share best practices,” she said. She said her ministry will work with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), as well as ASEAN, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and other stakeholders to explore how to bring the idea to fruition. For a start, she said, the focus can be on three areas: tripartism, workplace safety and health, and embracing technology for inclusive growth.
On Monday, Mrs Teo and her ASEAN counterparts signed a joint statement on the future of work, committing to improve education and training standards to harness technology, and to increase the labour force participation of women, people with disabilities, young people and the elderly, among other things. They also agreed to promote fiscally sustainable public and private national social protection initiatives to improve workers’ retirement adequacy, and to support efforts of employers’ and workers’ organisations in developing means for collective representation and social dialogue.

About 700 international delegates attended the Singapore Conference on the Future of Work: Embracing Technology; Inclusive Growth, at Raffles City Convention Centre. The conference, which centres around the Work for a Brighter Future report published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in January, takes place on Monday and Tuesday. It is organised by the ILO, Ministry of Manpower, NTUC and SNEF.

ILO director-general Guy Ryder said in a speech that there is a lot to celebrate in ASEAN’s growth. He highlighted how in the last century, millions of Asians moved to Europe and North America for work but now, entrepreneurial Europeans and Americans are flocking to Asia, attracted by the region’s dynamism. “Asia has become the heart of digital innovation, and there is that sense of optimism here,” he said. Despite this, innovation does not guarantee decent work or inclusive growth for all, he noted. Last year, one in five workers in ASEAN was living below the poverty line. Mr Ryder said the ILO will do everything within its capacity to make the Future of Work Regional Initiative happen. If governments can work together with employers and working people to find balanced and consensual solutions to challenges, this can open the way to a “reinvigoration of the social contract – this tacit agreement in our societies between people and institutions about what is fair, what is legitimate, what they want from the future of their lives and countries”, he said.

Source: Straits Times