Statement by the Rt. Honourable Mr. K P Sharma Oli, Prime Minister of Nepal, at the 108th Session (Centenary) of the International Labour Conference
Geneva, 10 June 2019
President of the Centenary International Labour Conference,
Excellencies Heads of State and Government,
Director General of ILO Mr. Guy Ryder,
Employers' and Workers' Representatives,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
We are gathered here today at a historic occasion
- to mark the centenary of an organization that pioneered in writing the most ambitious social contract in the history of humankind,
- to mark the centenary of the vision and aspiration for a just, humane and equitable world, and
- to lay an equally enduring foundation for the future.
This centenary celebration of the International Labour Organization is a celebration of the rights of the toiling masses to social justice through social dialogue.
I extend warm congratulations to ILO fraternity on this historic occasion.
I feel deeply honoured to be part of this momentous occasion and thank the Director General for the invitation.
I have brought greetings and best wishes from the land of Sagarmatha- the Mount Everest, and Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha and the fountain of Buddhism, for the success of this Conference.
The ILO’s Constitution was framed in the ashes of First World War. It reflected the collective desire and commitment of humanity to peace through social dialogue.
It was a testimony that production relations can be transformed through dialogue.
The core principles that ILO advanced, such as equal pay for equal value of work, freedom of association, working hours, adequate wage for living, balance between work and life, and social protection are its unique contributions to human civilization.
These are not ordinary achievements. ILO is a trendsetter of the future.
I would like to mention here two landmark initiatives of the last decade of the twentieth century- Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in 1998 and the Decent Work Agenda in 1999.
The report “Work for a Brighter Future” of the Global Commission on the Future of Work provides a sound basis for our deliberation.
I believe the report will set a discourse for another quarter of a century.
Development of technology, shifting demography, migration and change in the organization of work are creating new paths to prosperity.
On the other hand, they are disrupting the existing work arrangements.
Technology has replaced traditional jobs, transformed the way we work, and created more innovative workplaces.
Artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, internet, 3D printing and block-chain are bringing profound changes in the way we imagine the work.
The gig economy is providing millions an alternative to work remotely.
However, every change comes with new opportunities and challenges. This provides an opportunity to define that our destiny remains at the human command, but not at the command of technology,
- an opportunity that we handover a liveable planet to our posterity, and
- an opportunity to create a win-win situation through demographic dividend to supplement where human capital is in short supply.
In managing the changes we must keep human at the centre of all.
Investing in people’s capabilities, promoting entrepreneurship and creating decent jobs are critical to cope with the changes.
We must ensure gender equality, strengthen social protection, respect social dialogue, and guarantee rights at work.
As the climate change is raising demands in green jobs, climate actions will be most effective if they begin at the World of Work.
Green jobs would be the stepping-stones towards green economy.
Adequate wages and time sovereignty go hand in hand. That is the sign of prosperity and wellbeing of all workers.
Labour is not a commodity. ILO has a role to play that this core principle of Philadelphia Declaration is upheld at all time.
Persistent unemployment of youth breeds political instability and engenders poverty.
We must end this situation.
Nepal is endowed with vast natural resources as well as rich demographic dividend. This makes future of the world of work in Nepal highly promising.
We have adopted firm legal and policy reforms to address the dynamic international labour environment.
We have domesticated the provisions of the fundamental ILO instruments to which we are a party.
Our laws do not discriminate workers on the basis of their status - regular or irregular, outsourced or contractual and those coming from organized or informal sector.
We redefined the notion of life-long job by social protection to all workers irrespective of their nature of job; ensured fair balance between flexibility and social security; and legally ended the dichotomy of formal vs. informal sector.
This way we have successfully concluded the process of formalizing the informal sector.
Nepal’s democratic Constitution is founded on the ideals of equality, non-discrimination, and social justice.
Democracy without economic right and social justice remains incomplete.
Our conception of democracy goes beyond the formalities such as formation of political party, take part in electoral process or enjoy freedom of expressions.
Ours is a comprehensive democracy that empowers individual in all dimensions- political, economic, social and cultural.
Our Constitution embodies social justice, right against exploitation, rights to work, remuneration and social security as well as right to trade union and collective bargaining.
The rights to education, health care, food, housing, culture and language are guaranteed as fundamental rights of our people.
We have enacted a number of implementing legislations to enforce the fundamental rights, including those related to the world of work.
The entire life of an individual is covered by social security system. In childhood and old age State provides universal social security. In active age, workers are protected through contribution-based social security. This provision has been incorporated in the Social Security Act.
Last year in November, we launched an ambitious and comprehensive social security scheme to the working people.
This largest ever social security undertaking in Nepal is being implemented through contribution from both the workers and employers and covers benefits such as unemployment, maternity, sickness, old age, accident, dependent family members, and disability.
For past 25 years, Nepal has been providing old age pension to the senior citizens, and monthly allowances to single women and those coming from the most marginalized section of our society.
There has been gradual increment in the amount and coverage of this critical cash hand-out.
This year in February, we launched yet another employment based social security scheme under the Prime Minister Employment Program.
This flagship program aims to create jobs, guarantees employment to every working age citizen, provides allowances in case of unemployment, promotes innovation and entrepreneurship, and supports skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling.
To change the production relations, we have introduced new sets of labour laws that safeguard dignity of work, guarantee equal pay for the equal value of work, and ensure flexibility in the world of work.
The Trade Union Act protects collective rights of our workers in line with ILO Conventions 87 and 98.
Inclusion remains a basic tenet of our polity.
Special measures are in place to ensure inclusion of all sections of our society in State organs.
One-third representation of women is guaranteed in the Federal Parliament and Provincial Assemblies.
Elections in 2017 have resulted over 41 per cent of women's representation in elected bodies.
Enterprises are the drivers of modern economy that provide jobs and implement ILO standards. Our actions should support them to grow, create more jobs, and sustain economy. By jobs we mean the development of entrepreneurship, enterprises, MSMEs, start-ups and self-employment.
Decent jobs for our youths and social security to all are a key to address the job deficit.
Migrant workers are often vulnerable to high recruitment costs, contract substitution, unsafe and unsecured working conditions, and non-compliance of terms of employment.
Nepal being a country of origin as well as destination, we consider that the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) adopted in December last year provides a framework for cooperation.
Our role in the ILO Governing Body and UN Human Rights Council is informed by the basic premises of GCM to make labour migration safe, orderly and beneficial to all.
Dear brothers and sisters,
We have created institutional framework for social dialogue at the federal, provincial, local and enterprise levels.
Through a common platform of Joint Trade Union Coordination Centre, Nepal practices a unique example of unity in diversity of trade unions.
This distinct forum of workers represents all working people in Nepal to engage in social dialogue and promotes their interest in a spirit of solidarity and harmonious labour relations.
Presence of tripartite forum at the centre has resulted in improved labour relations that have brought down the labour disputes almost to nought.
The Government ensures employer’s compliance through labour audit that provides an opportunity for reflection, self-assessment and improvement.
Labour inspection and inspection of occupational safety and health are the integral part of labour audit.
The world of work in Nepal has voluntarily evolved a social contract to implement rights related issue and engage in collective agreements to safeguard the interests.
Nepal’s own democratic struggles drew significant inspiration from the work of ILO as many of our trade union leaders were the torchbearers of resistance against autocracy and pioneer of the democratic movements.
Over five decades of my public life, I have fought for equality and social justice for our people.
The Government under my leadership is focused on realizing the national aspiration of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’.
For prosperity we need skilled labour. This helps foster prosperity, which should lead to happiness. In this context, we want to define it as- सक्षम श्रमिक, समृद्ध नेपाल, सुखी नेपाली – meaning 'skilled workers, prosperous Nepal, happy Nepali' to underpin our agenda for decent work, wage and workplace.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We intend to end all forms of deprivation and exploitation, ensure equitable development and establish a socialism-oriented state as envisioned by our Constitution.
We aim to end the worst form of child labour by 2022 and all forms of child labour by 2025.
We are committed to meet SDGs before 2030, including the SDG 8 composite in all its dimensions.
With this objective in mind, Nepal joined the Alliance 8.7 as a Pathfinder country.
To conclude, Mr. President, hundred years on, the preambular words of the ILO’s Constitution continue to resonate in this assembly hall calling for reaffirmation to social justice and lasting peace.
We must meet these ‘moral-minimum’ and move forward to address more pressing issues of our time.
Today is the time to uphold ILO's founding ideals and demonstrate that they continue to be relevant in furthering the value of human worth, equality, social justice and sustainable future.
Let us deliberate on how ILO can secure its own future and that of its tripartite constituents.
I am confident, the outcome document of this Centenary event adequately reflects on that important aspect of the organization.
I thank you all.