UN labor head says trade fails have-nots

Associated Press, The Age, Wednesday 16 February 2000

The head of the world's top labor organisation yesterday criticised globalisation for spawning a “casino economy” and failing to provide decent work for millions in the developing world.

Mr Juan Somavia, director-general of the UN International Labor Organisation, predicted that globalisation in its current form would collapse unless policy makers found ways to “make markets work for everybody”.

“The benefits of the global economy are not delivering enough to enough people—hence the backlash,” Mr Somavia said. “I find the situation frankly dangerous, politically.”

Mr Somavia spoke at the UN Conference on Trade and Development, where the world's have-nots are criticising industrial nations for retarding development by trying to impose unequal rules for global trade.

Poor Thais, supported by local and foreign anti-trade activists, have staged daily but peaceful demonstrations outside the conference centre.

Mr Somavia, a Chilean, appeared to throw his support behind the Third World, although he noted that open economies and democratic societies, if underpinned by social justice, were desirable models.

“Trade policies have not benefited the developing countries,” he said. “We know that the global economy is not capable of delivering decent work for enough people.”

Mr Somavia also criticised a “casino economy” in which large capital flows careen from one corner of the world to another, creating instability in labor markets.

He said the weakest within a society often bore the brunt of structural market changes, and advocated support for small enterprises in face of giant corporations and big mergers.