World Economic Forum: An ILO Perspective 2013
The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. It holds meetings throughout the year and issues a number of publications.
To celebrate its first forty years, a book was published in 2009.* Its opening page carries a quote by Goethe “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffective, concerning all acts of initiative (and creation). There is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
In 1970-71, the Forum’s first office was a garage-like pavilion of about thirty square metres. After moving to a small office in the centre of Geneva, in late 1973, with just four people, it transferred to a villa in the suburb of Cologny, a residential area of Geneva. By 1998 the Forum had grown to include 73 full-time and 26 part-time colleagues. Each available corner of the house, even bathrooms, the garage and patios had been gradually taken over and transformed into workspace.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the Forum’s Founder and Executive Chairman, Klaus Schwab had entered into negotiations to purchase a large property in Cologny but intermittent discussions with the owner went nowhere because the asking price was too high.
After a few years of persistence, the Forum managed to buy the property at a reasonable price and with the help of the government of Geneva. On 1 November 1998 the World Economic Forum inaugurated its new headquarters and settled into what really may be called its home. The building gave the organisation a visible identity, raising its stature among its partners, members, constituents and collaborators. The organisation has continued to grow to around 400 colleagues.
Annual Meeting 2013
Its 43rd Annual Meeting was held in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, from 23 to 27 January 2013 with more than 2,500 business, government and civil society representatives participating in 270 plus sessions on the official programme. Many world leaders participated. Its Report is titled Resilient Dynamism reflecting the principal themes of discussion: Leading Through Adversity, Restoring Economic Dynamism and Strengthening Societal Resilience, the subjects of separate reports.
The Annual Meeting became known as the first “Digital Davos” when an unprecedented number of sessions were streamed live over the internet offering continuous live broadcasts of the Meeting’s main events featuring scores of interviews with top talent. Participants followed the Twitter leader board with number of tweets published and number of retweets. Participants were more involved than ever on reporting content of the Annual Meeting.
Over seventy sessions were covered by participant rapporteurs who interviewed session moderators and posted blogs on the Forum’s website. In the midst of crisis, the international community came together to act in a concerted way to pull the global economy from the brink … especially across the broad agenda to build resilient dynamism. The world’s movers and shakers participated each with their perspective. Above all, the underlying issue is jobs. There are 200 million people unemployed worldwide.
The Forum and the ILO share common interests in facing challenges for management and workers. They address some of the fundamental issues of job creation, gender parity, health and leverage of experience with considerations pertaining to an aging work force. Both have well established networks of partnership involving decision makers across the spectrum of society.
An ILO Perspective 2013
Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, spoke at the Meeting on the theme Education and Skills: The Book of Jobs. He warned that there cannot be any real economic growth without jobs. “It is not only the element of the economic malaise we have, but it is also the quintessential centre of it all”. The intensity of the financial crisis may appear to be receding, but jobs’ markets are giving completely different signals.
Herein lies the conundrum: if there are no jobs, the economy cannot grow; and if the economy cannot grow, it cannot create jobs. Worldwide 75 million young people are unemployed and these numbers are rising.
At the same time, employers lament that they cannot find skilled workers. The cruel irony is that there are many unfilled jobs worldwide. In Europe, 3 million positions cannot be filled, although 25 million, mostly young people, are looking for work. Panellists placed the blame, in part, on an education system that teaches skills and knowledge unaligned with what the real world requires.
It is not only the hard skills. Soft skills, such as good communication, interpersonal relationships, collaboration and conflict resolution, need to be taught - ideally from a young age. Every sector, including businesses, NGOs, government, parents and the unemployed, need to work together to address this,
Panellists in several sessions pointed to the need for universal education. The next big idea or cure for cancer could be locked inside a young person in Bangladesh or India who will never have a chance to go to school. Unleashing the power of young people will entail eliminating illiteracy.
Online education is the next big jump; it unlocks trapped value. As a result, in the next decade or two education should become available to everyone on the planet.
Note: Acknowledgement is given to sources in preparation of this text. *The World Economic Forum A Partner in Shaping History The first 40 Years 1971 to 2010.