Social partnerships for a just future world of work

Lifelong learning and vocational training are at the center of the the Regional Tripartite Social Dialogue Conference (RTSDC), held for the 10th time to promote social partnership and discuss the consequences of the 4th Industrial Revolution for the future of work.

Concluding 2019, over 120 delegates met in Bangkok to cultivate and foster social partnerships at the 10th ASEAN Regional Tripartite Social Dialogue Conference.

Convening under the theme “Building social partnership and forging a just and balanced transition to the future world of work”, the social partners -- governments, employers and trade unions -- met with think tanks, academics and practitioners to face the challenges of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

With panel debates and opening remarks from Thailand’s Minister of Labour H.E. M.R. Chatu Mongol Sonakul, the conference took stock of the developments in the ASEAN countries and the future of work to come. Identifying potential large-scale job displacement driven by technological disruption as a significant risk to the workers in the region, while at the same time promoting the role of social partners to make the most of digital technology, the Tripartite Social Dialogue partners stressed that new technologies can improve occupational health and safety standards, create opportunities and improve efficiency. However, without effective social dialogue and a commitment to core labour standards, the benefits of new technologies will be uneven and have the potential to drive down workers’ rights.


The potential of TVET and Lifelong Learning 


Furthermore, education and re-training measures to address the challenges of job loss, with the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) for ASEAN and the Lifelong Learning Training Program through Social Partnership were at the heart of the debates.

This year’s conference was jointly hosted by the ASEAN Services Employees Trade Union Council (ASETUC) in cooperation with the ASEAN Confederation of Employers (ACE), the ASEAN Secretariat and the ASEAN Senior Labour Officials Meeting (SLOM) group, with the support of Thailand’s Ministry of Labour and FES in Asia. A regional platform to shape the discourse and policies on social justice and regional integration in the ASEAN region, ASETUC, and subsequently the RTSDC, were launched in 2007 and 2009 by the Asia-Pacific branches of the global union federation for skills and services UNI, Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) and Public Services International (PSI), together with FES.


Key recommendations for a just future of work


With the goal of building a people-centred ASEAN in the digital era, the lively exchanges concluded with the adoption of key conclusions and recommendations for the governments, employers’ associations and trade unions of the ASEAN Member States:

  1. Governments should develop digital industrial policies that can strengthen public services, decent work and labour rights;
  2. Employers have the social responsibility to inform, consult and collaborate with employees and their unions and government on how job losses can be minimized, how new skills can be developed and how new jobs can be created;
  3. There is a need (also for unions) to recognize the rights and secure the jobs of the marginalized as well as new workers—the precarious and informal workers as well as freelancers and the atypical workers in the digital economy.

Stressing the unique nature of the RTSDC as a platform for tripartite partners to foster mutual understanding and common agreement, Vesna Rodic, Director of the FES Thailand Office, said, “the questions of the 4th Industrial Revolution are unprecedented. Neither governments nor employers or trade unions by themselves can face the challenges to come. To address large-scale job displacement, the looming skill mismatch and the future of work tripartite forums like this are our best chance to shape the future of work successfully.”

The 11th RTSDC is scheduled to take place in Hanoi later this year, under Vietnams 2021 chairmanship of ASEAN.  


For more information about the regional work by FES on trade, labour and social dialogue contact the Singapore-based FES Office for Regional Cooperation in Asia and follow the facebook page for regular updates.

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