Poverty Reduction in the context of Decent work
Poverty reduction in the context of decent work. There are strong similarities between decent work and poverty reduction. Both emphasize that people’s well-being is based both on the income derived from productive employment and social security, and on the rights and influence they exercise through representation and dialogue. Using the four pillars of decent work, the connections can be made in the following manner:
Rights at work
Along with physical aspects, poverty also stems from powerlessness and vulnerability. These aspects can be overcome, in part, through respect for rights at work. These include a range of labour standards that are now accepted internationally. They include the right to associate and bargain, the right to be free from gender, racial and other forms of discrimination, the right to a safe and healthy work environment, etc.
For micro and small enterprises, additional rights are needed to safeguard legitimate business activity. These include basic property rights, the right to conduct business in an environment that is free from harassment, administrative barriers, corrupt practises and the illegal seizure of property by public officials. To secure rights, entrepreneurs and workers need access to a sound judicial system.
Productive, remunerative employment
Poverty can be reduced through the development of productive enterprises that provide an adequate income for entrepreneurs and workers. Low productivity, a characteristic of many micro and small enterprises, limits wages and income and reduces the overall viability of an enterprise.13 Success in raising productivity and competitiveness can sustain livelihoods, help to raise wages and lead to job creation for the unemployed. In this way, entrepreneurship is regarded as a key aspect of the ILO’s Global Employment Agenda.
Systems of social protection address the vulnerability aspects of poverty and tend to do so by supporting incomes. A key aspect in this regard is the provision of social security, which can take public, private or semi-private forms. These include registering with, and contributing to, state pensions and insurance programmes for the protection both of workers and owner/operators. It can also involve supporting the establishment and expansion of private and association-based schemes for insurance against health, injury, unemployment, death and old age. The associations involved can represent either workers or enterprise owners in organizing social security.
As poverty is partly based on the lack of an effective voice, social dialogue can help to improve the situation of the poor. The micro and small enterprise economy often lacks representation in two ways: enterprises have a weak or no voice in business associations dominated by larger enterprises; and, labour (including dependent workers) are usually un-represented. Social dialogue, based on effective and democratic member-based associations, can allow micro and small enterprises to dialogue with the government on policy and programmes that are needed to support their development. Proper representation can also allow small enterprises and their workers to participate more in the design of a country’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP).
As the foregoing suggests, there is considerable similarity between the broad definition of poverty and the concept of decent work. However, the ILO may want to consider whether its SED activities should always address the needs of the very poor. There are workers who are not materially poor but who could still benefit from the ILO’s efforts to support decent work. For example, social dialogue may need to be strengthened in countries where income levels are relatively high.
Or, the creation of productive employment may be needed in countries where, due to social security, no-one is forced to survive on $1 a day. Given the combined material and power/voice approach to poverty, it can be argued that all of the ILO’s activities contribute, at least in part, to poverty reduction basis – even where the target group is not materially poor. If this is accepted, then poverty can be considered roughly synonymous with the condition known as a decent work deficit.