Dorothea Schmidt-Klau, expert for ILO6 our committee on solidarity.

Dorothea Schmidt-Klau, Director of Employment, Labour Markets and Youth at the ILO, spoke in ILO 6 about the solidarity policies to be adopted in order to reduce unemployment. 

In her view, talking about unemployment means talking about job creation. The most important thing is not the quantity of jobs created, but the quality of those jobs. It’s about workers having a decent wage and security, while having a say in the company’s choices.

Ms Schmidt-Klau adds with certainty that poverty reduction depends on the creation of decent jobs, and that this is the only sustainable strategy for escaping from poverty. Indeed, in countries where only some young people receive a high level of education, the lack of jobs creates frustration. This is why investing solely in education and not in the number of jobs is a risk for society. Institutions are therefore needed to match the supply of workers with demand. In Europe, the opposite problem arises. Because of the demographic problem, there are fewer and fewer young people, so supply is less than demand. Political representatives must therefore take reality into account, based on globalisation, climate change and demographic change, in order to create a realistic and favourable framework for each State and citizen.

Is there a risk of workers being replaced by robots in the future?

According to Ms Schmidt-Klau, the decision to replace certain jobs with robots is a political decision, for which the ILO must provide the framework, in order to guarantee ideal working conditions. What’s more, technology creates more jobs than it destroys, and creates jobs with better conditions.

What solutions can be put in place to eradicate forced labour?

First of all, Ms Schmidt-Klau points out that “there is no excuse for forced labour, no justification” and that it runs counter to all the UN’s principles. The possible solution could be to educate children so that they go to school instead of working, rather than banning forced labour. Tripartite solutions, taking into account the opinions of the government, workers and employers, can be envisaged. However, they often lead to inconclusive solutions, as the opinions of the parties are too different. Politicians have a more “realistic” view, aware that radical or idealistic policies are difficult to implement.

How can African countries be made more attractive in terms of employment?

Paradoxically, the brain drain (workers leaving for more developed countries) could be a solution of sorts, enabling the country to shine internationally. We can’t expect African countries to create as many jobs as developed countries.

How can being informed about the state of the labour market help in political decision-making?

This is where ILO employees come in. They go to the countries where the problems are greatest and help to find solutions, even if this can be difficult. This is where technology can help a great deal, by assessing the positive or negative impact of political decisions on the population. ILO employees then negotiate with political leaders, workers and employees, and agree with them on solutions adapted to their country. These solutions are then discussed in the various countries to find the best way of adapting them to the legal framework of each country. 

In the end, Ms Schmidt-Klau’s talk was a very enriching experience for all the students present, enabling them to think more deeply about their problem and to come up with better solutions.

Noa Compte and Loan Nicot