Debate: lousy jobs for all or decent work for a few?

Date: 21 October 2014

Venue: UAntwerp - Stadscampus - R.001 - Rodestraat 14 - 2000 Antwerpen

Time: 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Organization / co-organization: IOB and USOS

Short description: Debate with Lawrence Egulu (International Labour Organization) and Francis Teal (Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford)

With the global economy still sputtering more than five years after the ‘Great Recession’ began, job creation is again firmly on the policy agenda of governments and international organisations alike. In 2013, for example, the World Bank devoted its flagship World Development Report to this topic, showing that over the next 15 years an additional 600 million new jobs will be needed to absorb fast-growing working-age populations, particularly in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The report also argued that employment is instrumental for broader economic and social progress, besides its critical importance for individual well-being. Our keynote speaker Lawrence Egulu contends that in many developing countries, the problem is not so much the lack of jobs per se, but rather the poor quality and low productivity of existing jobs. What is needed, he argues, is better-paid employment that is supported by improved social safety nets and more bargaining power for unions, so that workers get to enjoy most of their increased earning power. These kinds of jobs  are exactly what the International Labour Organization (ILO) seeks to promote under its Decent Work agenda. Discussant Francis Teal, however, will defend the proposition that the ILO’s focus on creating ‘decent’ jobs in the poorest countries  risks leading to greater poverty, rather than less. In his opinion, policies that generate many ‘bad’ jobs (by the ILO’s definition) could actually be better at providing the poorly-educated with higher incomes than high-quality but capital-expensive jobs that will only be available to the happy few.

Mr. Lawrence Egulu holds a BA in Economics and Rural Economy from Kampala's Makerere University and an MA in Development Economics from Williams College in Massachusetts (US). He is employed as a Senior Adviser to the Deputy Director-General for Field Operations & Partnerships at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva. Before his current post, Mr. Egulu has also held positions at the ILO’s Africa Office in Addis Ababa, the World Bank, the African Regional Organization of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), Uganda’s National Organization of Trade Unions, the Ugandan Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and Makerere University. He has extensive experience in furthering the ILO’s Decent Work agenda and supporting the capacity building of trade unionists. His research interests include employment and social policy topics. See:





Emeritus Professor Francis Teal holds a PhD in Economics from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He was the Deputy Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) at the University of Oxford from 1996 to 2012 and the Director of the ESRC funded Global Poverty Research Group (GPRG) from 2002 to 2006. Professor Teal previously held positions in Tanzania at the Tanzania Investment Bank, in the UK at the National Institute of Economics and Social Research and SOAS and in Australia at the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Australian National University. He has been involved in research and policy work on a wide range of trade, labour and development topics, including on the evolution of firms in Africa, agricultural productivity and the links between skills, employment and incomes in African labour markets. He has published extensively and in prestigious academic journals about these subjects. See:

Entrance fee: Free


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