Just transition for Workers
in the Digitalized Workplace in the Global Economy
Address by Prime Minister Rt. Honourable K P Sharma Oli at the Inauguration of
Fifth UNI Apro Regional Conference
Kathmandu, 20 November 2019
Eminent personalities from the future of decent work,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I welcome you all on behalf of the Government and people of Nepal as well as on my own to this conference and wish you a pleasant stay in this land of Sagarmatha (Everest) and Buddha.
I am happy to be amongst you this evening. My presence in this conference reflects our profound commitment to and solidarity with the agenda of the working class.
I would like to congratulate UNI Apro for convening the Asia Pacific Regional Conference in Kathmandu. I thank you for choosing Kathmandu as the venue of this regional conference.
I feel delighted to find that the objectives and aspirations of the UNI Global Unions are close to the values that we share and endeavour to institutionalize in Nepal.
I am happy to learn that the Women’s and Youth's Conference of UNI Apro held in the past two days was successful.
Asia is rising, and I believe, it is rising mainly due to its dividend in youthful population—the workers that shoulder the capacity to take us and our region at unprecedented level of global economy.
The momentum of Asia’s growth at this juncture, therefore, relies on a vision, which can grasp the opportunity of transition in the digitalized era for our workers.
It is a happy coincidence that just a few months earlier this year, I had addressed the fellow global leaders about the importance of world of future work during the centenary celebration of the ILO in Geneva.
There we discussed how social justice and decent work can be fostered around the world. And, an important element we all agreed upon was- in the power of strong unions, their abilities to organize and push for higher goals towards a human-cantered well-being, shift for just transition is possible.
Leaders’ statements and action plans in multilateral and regional forums also confirm the significance of decent work to crisis recovery and sustainable development.
The efforts of UNI Apro family since the dawn of this century to stand collectively for 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 valuable contributions to the world community.
I must congratulate UNI Apro for constantly championing these fundamental tenets of the world of work.
Sisters and Brothers,
I have long emphasized that prosperity and happiness entails development policy based on equity and justice.
These two pillars: equity and justice can stand unflinching when the context of change is wisely taken into account.
This is a time of change being driven by technological innovation, digitalization, artificial intelligence, automation and climate change.
We are in an era of multidimensional transition.
- Transition brought by technological advancement.
- Transition propelled by demographic shift and migration.
- Transition brought by change in the organization of work and so on.
Technological revolution should be a tool of increased productivity, efficiency in service delivery and provider of better working place.
Above all, it should be a vehicle for elimination of poverty, hunger, unemployment and social insecurities.
As we stand at the epicentre of the 4th industrial revolution, the world of work faces increasing pace of migration.
The challenging dichotomy between the employment-seeking young population of the struggling economies and demands of the aging industrial countries need to strike a right balance.
For this balance seeking endeavour, it is high time that formal and informal sectors of political governance across the Asia-Pacific countries be more pro-workers.
Working people feel disoriented by the speed and nature of digitization changes outpacing their skills.
They are living the experience of falling wages and facing growing risks at work.
Despite their longer hours of work, when rewards plummet, it is natural to cause them genuine anxieties over the injustice of increasing inequalities.
Persistent unemployment of youth breeds political instability and engenders poverty. For these reasons, credible responses to their concerns is our pressing imperative.
Sustainable jobs for the future need to be created with a special emphasis on the rural development, infrastructure, green economy and the care economy.
To this end, we should urge that investments worldwide should be channelled in building capacities of people, in bolstering gender equality, in creating happier societies so that each worker can navigate successfully in conditions of transitions for human security.
Given the challenges of the status of our region on the investment front, we need to be innovative to come up with novel advances to finance for development.
Asian strengths of the approach of unity in diversity can step up in this regard.
Nepal’s own trajectory for its guarantee of the fundamental rights of workers is built upon unshakeable foundations.
Trade unions and professional organizations have a great role to play in promoting the observance of minimum labour standards in this age of disruptive transformation.
In the absence of due attention to this, forced transition will incur massive social costs in the forms of job loss, unemployment, poverty and political upheavals and social instability.
Our development efforts must encompass all dimensions of human wellbeing, should ensure sustainability of the planet, promote justice and welfare and should not leave anyone behind in the process.
For us, this represents true spirit of comprehensive democracy that we are endeavouring to practice in Nepal.
Our idea of comprehensive democracy goes much beyond formal political process of party building, participation in electoral process or enjoyment of the freedom of expression.
It is about holistic empowerment of individuals in all dimensions- political, economic, social and cultural. Democracy without economic right and social justice remains incomplete.
It is also about ensuring justice and opportunities for all to enable them enjoy prosperity in their own life time.
Human rights cannot find true meaning in absence of freedom from poverty, access to equal opportunity, right to life, security and dignity.
They remain useless if a person remains hungry and homeless, which threatens his most fundamental right – the right to life.
Being cognizant of the fact, we in Nepal have crafted social security system to cover the entire cycle of human life. This is to ensure that no one dies due to lack of basic necessities such as food, clothing, medicine and shelter.
Our Constitution embodies, among other things, social justice, right against exploitation, rights to work, remuneration and social security as well as right to trade union and bargain collectively. The rights to education, health care, food, housing, culture and language are guaranteed as fundamental rights of our people.
Inclusion remains at the heart of our polity. Special measures of inclusion are in place to ensure that all sections of our society have participation, voice and contribution in all State organs.
Talking about the rights of the workers, I would like to state that we have adopted necessary legal and policy reforms to address the dynamic international labour environment and complied with fundamental ILO instruments to which we are a party.
We recognize labour not as a commodity but as a human element that requires constant nurture and care.
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 have expanded 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.
We have a comprehensive social security scheme to the working people. This largest ever social security undertaking is being implemented with contribution from both the workers and employers. It covers benefits such as unemployment, maternity protection, medicare, old age, accident, dependent family members, and disability.
Nepal has been providing old age pension to the senior citizens for over two decades, and this now extends to single women and people from the marginalized section of our society in the form of monthly allowances.
The Prime Minister Employment Program launched since last fiscal year aims at creating jobs, guaranteeing employment to every working age citizen, providing allowances in case of unemployment, promoting innovation and entrepreneurship, and supporting skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling of those in the job market.
Nepali trade unions have established and practiced a unique example of unity in diversity. I feel proud to mention that many of our trade union leaders were the torchbearers for democratic struggles and people’s rights in Nepal.
It is on the basis of this legacy of the history of Nepal that I believe the soil here is fertile to bear fruits in great proportions for UNI Apro’s Asia-Pacific Regional Conference.
As one of the major labourer sending countries as well as a country of destination, welfare, safety and protection from exploitation of migrant workers remains an important priority for us.
At the same time, we promote enterprises, prioritize job creation and stimulate economic growth and development. We have created an investment-friendly environment to attract investment in productive sectors that create decent jobs.
My Government is focused on delivering the development dividend of the political achievement. This is being taken up with focused implementation of high yielding projects in hydro power, infrastructure development, tourism, education and agro-forestry sector. This represents a part of broader goal of realizing national aspiration of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’.
To conclude, Mr. Chair,
Let this conference be a valuable opportunity for sharing of our strengths, opportunities, and experiences among us. Let the three forthcoming days also generate pathfinders to overcome our obstacles. I wish for fresh revitalization of partnerships with each other for treading the road ahead together. This can help us achieve the just transition for workers in the rapidly changing, globalized and digitalized workplaces.
I call upon all individuals present in the Conference to redouble their efforts towards this goal.
Finally, I would like to wish the very best for the success of this meeting to culminate positively towards a productive UNI Apro– in Brisbane, Australia, 2022.
Thank you !