27 Jan 2012

Call for World Economic Forum to address social inequality

8:21 am on 27 January 2012

The head of a global trade union says social cohesion will be shattered if Europe continues to focus on austerity, without creating jobs.

The UNI Global Union represents 20 million workers across 150 countries.

Its general secretary Philip Jennings says he wants leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos to address growing social inequality, which is back at levels last seen in the 1920s.

Mr Jennings says austerity measures have failed to create growth and policy makers can't ignore workers any longer.

He told CNN it is necessary to change how wealth is distributed using the tax system and to provide unions with a stronger voice.

Meanwhile, a report from the International Labour Organization says the world is facing an urgent challenge to create 600 million jobs, in order to stimulate growth and maintain social cohesion.

The ILO says there are now 200 million unemployed workers, and another 40 million jobs need to be created each year over the next decade.

And it says better jobs need to be created for the estimated 900 million people who live below the poverty line.

ILO director-general Juan Somavia says governments must have a broader vision than just cutting spending, because society pays the price in terms of lost jobs, lower income and rising poverty.

He says emerging countries came out of the crisis more quickly because they applied different policies such as increasing minimum wages, increasing the social protection system and stimulating small enterprises.

But Mr Somavia says these countries are now worried that they will get the contagion effect partly from Europe and partly from the United States.