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#GlobalChallenges: providing decent jobs for all

Time (GMT +00) 11:00 12:30


Jonathan Rosenthal @rosenthal_jon - Africa Editor, The Economist


Her Excellency Ameenah Gurib-Fakim @aguribfakim - President, Republic of Mauritius & Co-Chair, Global Commission on the Future of Work

Louise Fox - Chief Economist, USAID (via video link)

Myrtle Witbooi - General Secretary, South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU) & President, International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF)

Elizabeth Stuart @ElizStuart - Head of Programme, Growth, Poverty & Inequality, Overseas Development Institute (ODI)


Not only have all governments agreed to deliver full employment by 2030, but they have also committed to fast-tracking progress for the poorest and most marginalised. 

The demographic bulge, a new understanding of the real rate of unemployment, and the scale of informality makes this already Herculean task more challenging still. According to standard definitions more than 212 million people will be unemployed by 2019. Yet ODI research has shown that the number of people seeking jobs – two-thirds of whom are women – may actually be ten times that. And most poor people work in the informal sector. Informal is the new normal. Across 60 developing countries the median share of informal work is over half, and in seven: Benin, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Nepal, India, Cameroon and Mali, it exceeds 80% (ODI, forthcoming).

Economic transformation will be part of the answer but it is highly likely, at least for the foreseeable future, that the number of jobs needed will outstrip the capacity of formal labour markets to supply them.

Drawing on new ODI research, this event convenes a high-level panel to discuss what policy solutions can help female informal workers who face being left behind. Specifically, the panel explores:

  • Is formalisation the only answer?
  • What policies should governments and international policy-makers implement now to ensure no informal worker is left behind?
  • How can jobs at the bottom of the informal labour market better protect and empower women?


Dr (Mrs) Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was sworn in as the 6th President and the First Female President of the Republic of Mauritius in June 2015. Prior to joining the State House, Her Excellency was Managing Director of the Centre International de Développement Pharmaceutique (CIDP) Research and Innovation Office, as well as Professor of Organic Chemistry with an endowed chair at the University of Mauritius. Since 2001, she has served successively as Dean of the Faculty of Science and Pro Vice Chancellor (2004-2010). Ms Gurib-Fakim earned a BSc in Chemistry from the University of Surrey, UK (1983), and a PhD from the University of Exeter (1987). In 2014, Dr (Mrs) Gurib-Fakim became the first Mauritian to address the prestigious TEDGlobal Conference in Rio de Janeiro. She was elevated to the Order of GCSK by the Government of Mauritius and received the Legion d’Honneur from the Government of France in 2016.

Jonathan Rosenthal is The Economist‘s London-based Africa Editor. He joined The Economist in 2005 as British business correspondent, having worked for several years at Bloomberg News in London and Johannesburg. Before that he was the mining editor of Business Report, a South African daily newspaper. His previous roles at The Economist have included international banking editor, European business and finance correspondent, based in Berlin, and British business correspondent in London. In January 2008, Jonathan won the Feature of the Year award at the WorkWorld Media Awards, and the following year he was named Reporter of the Year. He has appeared on television and radio in several countries including BBC News 24, Sky and on ITV’s 'Tonight' programme, among others.

Dr Louise Fox is USAID’s Chief Economist. In this role, she guides the Agency on economics-based decision making and is responsible for keeping USAID’s economists on the cutting edge of ideas in development economics. Before joining USAID, Dr Fox served as a Visiting Professor of Development Economic Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and as a consultant in development economics, specializing in employment, labour markets, gender, social service delivery and poverty reduction. Prior to joining UC Berkeley, Dr Fox had a distinguished career at the World Bank where she advised governments in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe on how to develop, implement, and evaluate effective policies for employment, social security and poverty reduction. Her most recent published work has been on the topics of poverty reduction and inclusive growth, the political economy of poverty reduction, and on employment, labour markets, and labour regulation, all with respect to Sub-Saharan Africa. Her most recent book is Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa, published by the World Bank in 2014. Dr Fox received a bachelor’s degree in international relations and affairs from UC Berkeley and a Ph.D. in economics from Vanderbilt University.

Myrtle Witbooi is a South African labour activist. She currently serves as the General secretary of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU) and President of the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF). Myrtle began her career as a young domestic worker in apartheid South Africa. With the help of a local journalist, she helped convene the first ever organisational meeting of domestic workers in Cape Town in 1965. As General Secretary of SADSAWU, she has fought for a national minimum wage increase and compensation for on-the-job injuries for domestic workers. In 2011, Myrtle helped lead the international coalition of domestic workers that secured passage of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. The Convention (No. 189) on domestic workers has become the first international labour standard to ensure domestic workers have the same basic rights as other workers. The convention marked unprecedented involvement of informal women workers in the ILO standard-setting process.

Elizabeth Stuart is head of the Growth, Poverty and Inequality Programme at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and leads the Institute's work on the Sustainable Development Goals, with a focus on the 'leave no one behind' agenda. Her areas of interest include inequality in its widest sense as well as multilateral processes, and the political economy of national-level policy making. Before joining ODI, she was director of policy and research for Save the Children, a former head of Oxfam International’s Washington DC office, and was a national newspaper and radio journalist writing about business.

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