THE SPEECH OF MR. JACEK MĘCINA,
VICE-MINISTER OF LABOUR AND SOCIAL POLICY
THE 101ST SESSION OF THE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR CONFERENCE 14TH JUNE 2012.

Mr Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The on-going economic crisis in Europe and worldwide, persistent unemployment, poverty and inequalities still require decisive and sometimes unpopular decisions. One may think that these phenomena are here to stay, we cannot afford to relax our vigilance. In Poland we observe a unique situation. In the recent years, despite the economic crisis, the GDP in Poland has remained rather high – when compared with other European countries – and in 2011 amounted to 4 per cent. At the same time, the unemployment rate has increased by only 2 percentage points.

This situation is to a great extent a consequence of appropriate solutions which were designed through dialogue and aimed at reducing the negative impact of the crisis. Although the Act of 1 July 2009 on mitigating the impact of the economic crisis for employees and entrepreneurs ceased to be in force, the Tripartite Commission for Social and Economic Affairs is holding talks on the possible further application of the labour law solutions included in the Act.

What also largely contributed to preserving the indicators of economic development were the investments in infrastructure co-financed with EU funds. The preparations for the Football Championships in Poland and Ukraine had additional impact on the scope of those investments. In terms of economy and the labour market, investments in infrastructure are of key importance to creating new jobs, however, the problems connected with employment of the young and persons aged above 50 are still present.

Implementation of the principles of social justice – one of the essential pillars of interest of the International Labour Organisation – constitutes one of the challenges we face today, particularly in the light of demographic changes. The demographic forecasts for the coming years are not optimistic. Therefore, it is necessary to implement appropriate actions, especially in relation to persons aged above 30 and older persons, in order to ensure their proper participation in the labour market.

Young persons, who account for about 28 per cent of all the unemployed in Poland, are a specific group on the labour market. Thus, recently many instruments have been created which are targeted specifically at this group, in order to enable them to properly participate in employment. At present there are also on-going works on launching a programme aimed at persons aged above 30, which would eliminate the barriers to their accessing the labour market, by means of, for instance, a proper system of trainings. The measures proposed under the programme were consulted with the social partners, however, what is also necessary is the active participation of the trade unions and employers, in order to design new, efficient instruments also in the further perspective.

The difficulties on the labour market experienced by persons aged above 50 (about 20 per cent of all the unemployed) are one of the main interests of the social partners and the government. Responding to the demographic challenges and the threats to the pension system, the Polish government initiated some complex system changes connected with the extending and levelling of the pension age for men and women. At the same time, the issue of limiting the pension privileges of certain groups is discussed. Despite the fact that the proposed changes included a series of compromise solutions, they were highly criticised by the trade unions. Regardless of the obvious differences, both the trade unions and employers agree that more active programmes are necessary to promote employment of older persons, guarantee support in the case of unemployment, improve working conditions and the forms of investing in social capital, as well as to extend the programmes aimed at health prevention.

Social dialogue has many times turned out to be a good measure for reaching a compromise concerning key social and economic matters. Hence – representing the government of the Republic of Poland – I would like to underline that the tripartite dialogue will still be conducted, in particular in relation to such important issues as:

- the improved efficiency of the public employment services, in order to ensure a real impact of social partners on the directions, range and forms of support they offer;

- the changes in labour law, in order to ensure stability of employment and to eliminate the forms of employment not provided for in the Labour Code – as postulated by both the trade unions and the organisations of employers.

Although the parties to the dialogue have often different expectations, a compromise should be always pursued as well as the fulfillment of the objectives set in the Decent Work Agenda of the International Labour Organisation, which has been repeatedly reflected in the reports of the Director-General.
I would also like to use this opportunity to thank Mr Juan Somavia for his many years' work as Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, building and developing the Organisation and promoting the fundamental labour principles and rights. and I wish the director general elect Guy Ryder every success in fulfilling his new responsible task.

Thank you for your attention.