HA NOI (VNS) — Asian and European labour ministers and high-ranking officials have pledged to take steps to create decent jobs, especially for young and vulnerable job seekers, and promote better social protection policies.

In a joint statement adopted at yesterday’s Fourth ASEM Labor and Employment Ministers’ Conference held in Ha Noi, the leaders noted that the global financial crisis and economic slowdown have exposed the weaknesses of labour markets and contributed to a “worsening youth employment crisis.”

Speaking at the opening session, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called on ASEM countries to create more jobs and social protection initiatives and implement the economic recovery measures that should accompany them.

“The achievements that ASEM has made in the past year have been promising but are not commensurate with the potential role of ASEM, which engages 60 per cent of the world population and half of the world GDP,” he said.

The conference brought together ministers and representatives from 27 European Union states and the European Commission with 19 Asian countries and the ASEAN Secretariat. The global and financial crisis continues to affect the employment and income of Vietnamese workers, especially young people, said Nguyen Thi Hai Chuyen, Minister of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs.

“The government is making efforts to expand business and production, create new jobs, and enhance access to the labour market for all workers, especially young workers.”

The International Labour Organization estimates that nearly 75 million youth are currently unemployed around the world.

Lee Jae Kap, vice minister of South Korea’s employment and labor, said that there was a prevalent belief in his country that graduating from university would guarantee a good job – although this was increasingly false.

To persuade companies to hire high-school graduates, in September 2011 the South Korean government started offering companies tax incentives for each graduate they employ. Career counseling services and job fairs help teenagers explore options other than college, according to Lee.

In addition, the South Korean government has also enhanced support for internship programs at small and medium enterprises and promotes the practice of hiring youth based on merit, rather than educational background.

Janne Metsamaki, state secretary of Finland’s ministry of employment and the economy, said the country has allocated 60 million Euros ($US78 million) annually to implement an initiative known as Youth Guarantee starting in 2013.

The program offers work or a traineeship to each person under 25 and recent graduate under 30 within three months of becoming unemployed. The country’s youth unemployment rate for those under 25 was 19.5 per cent in February 2012.

ASEM labour leaders also agreed to provide further social protection in order to ensure equity and better jobs.

Phadermchai Sasomsub, Thailand’s Minister of Labour, said the Thai government carried out measures to include workers in the informal sectors among the insured, using their income level to determine their “volunteer base contribution” to social security.

Maurizio Bussi, director of ILO Decent Work Team for East, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said Asian growth had proven unbalanced, unfair and unsustainable partly due to export-oriented economies.

Thus, countries should also work to increase the quality of employment, avoiding the phenomenon of “employed poverty.”

The ILO has suggested actions including strengthening employment-centered macro-economic policies, implementing youth guarantee schemes, and increasing internships and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people.

The joint statement will be submitted to ASEM leaders at the 9th ASEM Summit scheduled to take place in Vientiane, Lao PDR on November 5-6. — VNS