ILO aims to play role in Tunisia, Egypt social reforms

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The International Labour Organisation said Monday that it aims to play a key role in helping Egypt and Tunisia reform their social policies, after the two countries sought help from the UN agency.

During a debate on the challenges faced by the Arab world, members of the ILO as well as representatives of the two countries acknowledged that the UN labour agency has a crucial role to play in this "historic moment."

"What one must understand is that history is being made and ILO has the responsibility of playing the role requested by these countries," ILO chief Juan Somavia told AFP.

Somavia has already visited Egypt in March while an ILO mission has also been sent to Tunisia.

Egyptian employment minister Ahmed El-Boraid told AFP that the country would tap on ILO expertise in three key areas -- implementing regulations on the freedom of unions, combatting unemployment as well as introducing a minimum wage.

He noted that the lack of democracy as well as social inequalities were at the root of the popular uprisings in the Arab world.

Youth unemployment in particularly had an essential role, he noted, pointing out that between 10 and 12 percent of young Egyptians are unemployed.

Abdessalem Jerad, who heads the General Union for Tunisian workers, also noted: "The years of dictatorship have left painful memories, among young graduates aged 18 to 35 years, unemployment rate is at around 30 percent."

Somavia noted that reducing youth unemployment must be a priority for the new Tunisian and Egyptian governments.

The people in the Arab world want "action, not words. They need pertinent international experience which has worked, not studies or lessons. And they want investors who have confidence in the ongoing change," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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