Three Questions to Ingo Kramer
Being President of the leading organisation dealing with social policy on behalf of the entire German private sector, the Confederation of German Employers (BDA), what do you expect from the B20 process?
The B20 process provides an excellent opportunity for the international business community to participate in global economic and social policy governance. We will support the work of the G20 by hosting focused policy discussions and developing policy recommendations geared towards strong and sustainable economic growth and job creation. The B20 “Taskforces” and “Cross-thematic Groups“ will consult with the business community and devise a detailed list of policy recommendations for the G20. However, we have seen in the last G20 Presidencies that the up-take of the B20 recommendations has been rather fair. We expect from G20 governments to take the B20 recommendations fully into account and to take further steps in creating an enabling business environment for sustainable economic growth and job creation.
What should be on the German B20 Agenda in the field of employment and social policy?
I firmly believe that the G20 countries should pursue policies that promote employment. In 2015 the number of globally unemployed people reached 197.1 million, an increase of 1 million from 2014, and 27 million above the pre-global financial crises level. This is an urgent call for action – we have to bring the world back to work. Therefore, G20 Government should place an emphasis on building flexible and inclusive labour markets and change the regulatory environment so as to remove barriers that inhibit female and youth labour force participation. G20 governments should, for instance, reduce restrictions on diverse forms of contractual arrangements, such as part-time and flexible hour contracts, and use of temporary agency work. They should determinedly tackle youth unemployment, advance education of women and also improve day care facilities for children. In doing so governments should acknowledge the key role business and labour play in the shaping of economic and social policy.
One of the focal areas of B20 will be sustainable global supply chains. How does busi-ness contribute to sustainable value chains and what is your general assessment?
Many companies engage pro-actively with their suppliers to help address serious social prob-lems, especially in emerging and developing countries. Over the past decades many business driven initiatives and alliances have been set up to improve standards within global supply chains. However, the real possibilities for companies to influence the supply chain are highly divergent. They depend on the number of suppliers, the structure and complexity of the supply chain as well as on the market position of the company. Large companies have often a very high number of direct suppliers – often several thousand businesses. Many small companies, due to their limited resources and limited market position, have factually no possibility to exert influence over their suppliers.
In any case, the role that companies can play in solving these problems must be clearly demar-cated from the tasks of governments. Supply chain management by companies can only complement, but not replace public policy and state responsibility for enforcing regulation and stand-ards on human rights and occupational health and safety. It is the primary role and responsibility of the governments to implement and enforce environmental and labour standards, for instance through an effective administration and jurisdiction. This task cannot be delegated to companies. Furthermore, the G20 has to acknowledge that the implementation of environmental and labour standards in producing countries is not only a supply chain specific issue. The vast majority of companies and workers are not involved in global supply chains, but produce for the domestic market. Any G20 initiative to improve working conditions must therefore address national frameworks which apply to all companies. Business is committed to support G20 governments in this endeavour.
Finally, we should bear in mind that global supply chains not only stimulate growth and create jobs, but also contribute to productive employment and decent work. Economies are becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent. Taking part in global supply chains offers great opportunities for both countries and companies, like increased employment opportunities, better living standards and the deployment of new technologies.