Release type: Speech


Address to the Plenary of the 17th Asia Pacific Regional Meeting of the International Labour Organisation (Singapore)


The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Skills and Training

On behalf of the Australian Government, I am honoured to address the 17th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting of the International Labour Organization.

Australia is a proud founding member of this multilateral organisation and a member of this dynamic and diverse regional group.

We’re privileged to be working alongside the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australia Chamber of Commerce and Industry to contribute to the ILO’s vision — to ensure an inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery from the challenges we face.

As a Government, we have sought to ensure tripartism is reflected throughout our policy approaches, much in the way the ILO ensure this.

I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Houngbo on his recent appointment as Director-General. We look forward to working with you and supporting your vision for the future of the ILO.

Thank you as well to the Singaporean Government for hosting this important meeting.

This meeting is certainly coming at an important time.

As the Director-General's report notes, our region continues to face some of the greatest challenges in the world of work.

The COVID-19 pandemic, increasing uncertainty in the global economy, the environmental crisis driven by climate change, and the escalation of social crises are impacting the world of work in a way we’ve never seen before.

It has exacerbated the skills crisis, which for Australia is now one of the biggest economic challenges we’ve faced in decades.

Globally, the deficit in decent work and inclusive growth continues to disproportionately affect women, people with a disability, First Nations and Indigenous peoples, and other groups in vulnerable situations or who have experienced disadvantage.

And so, to ensure a resilient and sustainable recovery from the impact of COVID, and to weather the stormy economic conditions — including inflation and high energy prices — the Australian Government is transforming the world of work, with tripartism at its heart.

We recently held a successful Jobs and Skills Summit where governments, employers, unions and the broader community came together to help plan a path to a bigger, better trained and more productive workforce.

We’re also working to get wages moving again, to keep pace with the rising cost of living, and to ensure safer, fairer and more secure workplaces.

We’re helping to close the gender pay gap by putting gender equality at the heart of our workplace laws, and strengthening options for workers in female dominated professions, such as the care economy to improve their wages and working conditions.

For skills, our vision is for a flexible and adaptable education and training system that supports businesses, including those in new and emerging industries, and provides a path for workers to seize those opportunities with transferable skills. This includes a focus on those who have historically been excluded, including women.

Looking further ahead, a changing global environment in the world of work means we need to anticipate future skills requirements, and quickly respond to skills shortages.

That’s why we have established the tripartite body Jobs and Skills Australia, which will provide independent advice to government on current and emerging workforce needs.

Our region has untapped potential to drive the future of work.

With Asia and the Pacific home to 60 per cent of the world's population — some 4.3 billion people — it must remain a key focus of the ILO.

In partnership with the ILO and our social partners, we have a collective responsibility as we face these challenges to secure our region’s interests — today and in the future.

We’ll continue to address issues around forced and child labour, gender inequality, and emerging issues such as the platform economy.

I look forward to the outcomes of this important meeting.

I’m confident they can support our vibrant and ambitious region in revitalising our approach to the various challenges facing jobs and skills, and supporting a world of work that is secure, equal and fair for all.