Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs and social partners meet with ILO to discuss joint activities to advance decent work in Iraq, with support of the European Union
A Steering Committee, represented by ILO's tripartite partners, held its first meeting to discuss progress made in the implementation of a project, supported by the European Union, aimed at enhancing labour governance, inspection and decent working conditions in Iraq, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting brought together high level officials, including Iraq's Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Adel Al-Rikabi and his counterpart in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Kwestan Mohammed, in addition to other Government officials, employers' and workers' representatives, EU Head of Cooperation to Iraq, Barbara Egger and ILO Country Coordinator for Iraq, Maha Kattaa.
Minister Al-Rikabi said:
"The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs signed the Decent Work Country Programme with the ILO in December 2019, and we have repeatedly stressed the need to improve working conditions in all areas of work, especially in labour inspection and Occupational Safety and Health. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there needs to be more focus on the requirements of the labour market and the return of employers to their workplace.
"We applaud this first steering committee meeting. Collaboration between the various ministries is crucial in helping develop strategies that aim to facilitate job opportunities, and activate a national employment policy which is responsive to the realities on the ground. We look to (promoting) decent work opportunities, a responsive private sector, and safe social protection, in collaboration with our social partners and the ILO."
The EU-supported project addresses some of the challenges imposed by the pandemic, as well as the longer-term decent work priorities of Iraq. Implemented by the ILO and its partners, the project seeks to strengthen labour inspection, occupational safety and health (OSH) in line with International Labour Standards and advance employment in compliance with decent work principles.
Minister Mohammed added:
"On behalf of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, we would like to thank the ILO for all its efforts and support under the framework of this project, which addresses Occupational Safety and Health and labour inspection for workers in the Kurdistan Region, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that this steering committee meeting, which is the first to take place, will address both areas of Occupational Safety and Health and labour inspection, covering our needs, and those of workers in the Kurdistan Region.
"In addition, we hope (these efforts will) strength the labour market through improving employability skills that will contribute to enhancing employment opportunities aiming at activating the national employment policy. Finally, we truly wish the best of luck for this project and the meeting."
Following the meeting, the workforce planning committee also met and discussed the development of a National Employment Policy aimed at facilitating job creation, improving working conditions and promoting social and economic development. The National Employment Policy will help guide labour market policies in the country and ensure synergies between relevant stakeholders in addressing the labour market needs of Iraq.
The ILO is currently working with the Central Statistical Organization (CSO) and Kurdistan Region Statistics Office (KRSO) in the development of a national Labour Force Survey. The results of the survey will feed into the formulation of the National Employment Policy.
ILO Country Coordinator Kattaa said:
"The steering committee meeting is important in facilitating the implementation of the project's activities in a manner that achieves its objectives and desired results.
"We look forward to the development of strategies supporting job creation, that will prepare the ground for a comprehensive national employment policy which will address the immediate livelihoods needs of workers and their families, while also focusing on the longer term structural labour market changes required to address the decent work needs of women and men."
EU Head of Cooperation, Barbara Egger, said:
"Access to decent work is the main route out of poverty. At the same time, employment must be safe for all members of society, including women and people with disabilities. The Covid-19 pandemic has further illustrated the need for a joint strong effort to ensure the quality and safety of work.
"This project contributes to this crucial objective by promoting compliance with labour standards and enhanced social dialogue. I am also pleased with the discussions taking place on developing a national employment policy which is urgently needed to address the structural deficiencies of the labour market in Iraq."
The Iraq Decent Work Country Programme, which was signed in 2019, focuses on three key areas of priority: job creation and private sector development; social protection and addressing child labour; and labour market governance and social dialogue.