GENEVA – Governments, employers’ and workers’ delegates from more than 30 countries meet in Geneva from 26-28 November 2013 to discuss a series of issues related to the chemical industry, including ways to promote employment and training, occupational safety and health, and corporate social responsibility.
“The global economic crisis has led to job losses in the chemical industry, which employs nearly 20 million people worldwide. But at the same time the economic slowdown has given the industry opportunities to introduce new initiatives that are resulting in more and better jobs,” said Alette van Leur, Director of the ILO’s Sectoral Activities Department.
“This meeting will provide an excellent platform to discuss some of these ideas as well as the challenges ahead,” she added.
An ILO paper prepared for the meeting highlights the strategic importance of the chemical industry for national economies. It identifies the shortage of skilled workers and scientists as one of the most pressing challenges but it also shows that several countries have already taken measures to address them.
Chemical industry: Facts and figures
For example, the ILO and the Russian Federation have developed a partnership to implement innovative skills development programmes in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The Educate to Innovate campaign in the United States – launched in 2009 – aims to improve education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), while countries from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – which also face a shortage of skilled workers in the oil, gas and chemical industries – have poured millions of funds into training.
At the same time, some countries are stepping up efforts to increase decent and productive work in the chemical industry by reducing health, safety and environmental risks. In the European Union, over half of all small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the sector currently offer green products or services, while countries in South America are investing heavily in greener technologies.
The three-day conference follows a decision adopted by the March 2011 session of the ILO Governing Body to hold a global meeting on decent and productive work in the chemical industry.