A team of international and local experts on labour last week subjected the impact of international trade on domestic job creation activities to critical scrutiny amid increasing agitations for efforts to stimulate economic growth and employment particularly at the micro-enterprise level.
Labour and Employment Minister, Haruna Iddrissu who led a team of policymakers to the conference at Peduase in the Eastern Region observed that the country’s high productivity sectors have sunk leading labour into low productive sectors and often into informality.
One reason, he said, could be the kind of trade agreements the country signs unto.
“The growing role of trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) flows in the global economy has generated increasing interest among policymakers, the media and the general public in its impact on employment and income across the world”.
He noted that there is a symbiotic relationship between trade and employment, and that open and unfettered trade policies affect employment prospects. In this regard, trade must be complemented with employment opportunities and greater social protection, he averred.
“Many people are concerned about the effects of open trade on employment and research suggests that, liberalized trade is an engine for job creation in all countries especially as the world moves from economic crisis to recovery. However, trade liberalization must be accompanied by appropriate employment and social policies, so that we can all reap the benefits of open markets”.
The Minister’s remarks were made in his capacity as chair of an International Labour Organisation (ILO) and European Union (EU) project on “Strengthening the Impact on Employment of Trade and Sector Policies” which was last week launched at Peduase in the Eastern Region.
The project aims to strengthen the employment dimension in sectoral and trade policies and programmes with better analysis, more coherent policy-making, and enhanced implementation to encourage employment creation and upgrading.
Minister Iddrissu, whose speech was read on his behalf by the Chief Director of the Ministry, Sammy-Longman Attakuma, who called on the participants to ensure that the reforms that they will initiate will be sustainable so that trade liberalization can be more beneficial for employment.
The ILO Director for Anglophone West Africa, Dennis Zulu said the meeting brings to the fore an issue at the core of the development of every nation, that is, the issue of employment creation in the face of increasing globalization, specifically employment growth in the face of increasing global trade liberalization, open markets and free trade agreement.
Mr. Zulu said as the project will generate and improve knowledge on both the positive and negative impacts of international trade on employment, it is hoped that it would develop in collaboration with the nation stakeholders, relevant methods for the employment impact assessment of those policies in selected sectors that will bring growth, in terms of quantity and quality of jobs through targeted research, trade related technical assistance and policy advice.
He said the ILO’s approach to addressing this issue is premised on the Global Decent Work agenda that seeks to promote the creation of jobs in freedom, equity, security and human dignity which are cornerstones’ of what the ILO and its constituents refer to as “decent work”.
He said the project seeks to contribute to global knowledge on how to strengthen the positive impact on employment of sectoral and trade policies.
The European Union is financing the 28-month project which is part of a 10 country global initiative and falls directly in line with the tenets of the country’s National Employment Policy launched last year by President Mahama.
Zulu expressed the hope that at the end of the project, the country would be able to calculate the amount of employment associated with trade, providing a comprehensive measure of employment effects of international trade along all points of the supply-chain.
Ambassador of the European Union to Ghana, William Hanna said the EU decided to finance with €6.5 million the implementation of the project in 10 developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America with inclusion of Ghana.
He noted that employment, skills development and social protection are among the focal sectors of the EU’s bilateral cooperation programming over 2014-2020 in the contexts of the Cotonou Agreement. He said the very aim of boosting trade is to trigger job creation, ‘decent job’ creation. Hanna said the EU believes that trade can be a powerful engine for growth and job creation.