On Sunday, there are elections to the European Parliament and a lot is about the EU's internal issues. But the EU is also an important foreign policy player, not least in its role as the world's largest donor. That is why it is extremely important that the newly elected Swedish parliamentarians invest from day one in ensuring that EU aid is focused on decent and sustainable jobs.
In the days leading up to the elections on 26 May, the debate is mainly about the EU's internal challenges regarding democracy and human rights, which are, of course, extremely important for the Member States. But these issues must not lead to a downgrading of the EU's role as a global player.
In 2018, EU total aid amounted to just over EUR 70 billion. This makes the EU and the member states the world's largest donors, according to Sida. A significant aid budget means that the Union can make a big difference in changing the lives of millions of people, especially those living in vulnerability and poverty in low- and middle-income countries.
Working under good working conditions is a key
The stated purpose of EU aid is to provide support so that people can fight oppression and get out of poverty. Contributing to the creation of more jobs in countries with widespread poverty is a crucial part of that work. Jobs and faith in the future can strengthen countries' economies and contribute to the inclusion of marginalized groups, such as women and young people, in the labor market.
But in order to lift people out of poverty in the long term, new jobs must at the same time mean decent working conditions, wages that workers can live on and a constructive dialogue between the social partners. Productive employment with decent working conditions is central to inclusive and sustainable economic development and poverty reduction.
Today, a number of low-income countries are grappling with challenges that stand in the way of decent working conditions. This is not least because a large part of the population works in the informal economy, which means that social safety nets are lacking and that workers' rights to organize and negotiate are not respected.
In development aid, these challenges can only be met effectively with a policy that understands the importance of decent working conditions and through cooperation with strong, democratic and representative trade unions. This means development assistance initiatives in collaboration with trade unions and which, through support for dialogue and organization, work for formal employment, strengthened social protection and respect for human rights in working life.
Workers' rights crucial in climate change
Decent working conditions are also a crucial component in the EU's work on the necessary climate change. With this changeover comes great opportunities to combine sustainable development and jobs in new sectors. The UN's working life body ILO has stated that in the coming years around 24 million climate-friendly jobs can be created, in other words jobs that work in a fossil-free economy.
At the same time, we know that jobs are disappearing and changing as an effect of climate change and that new jobs are not automatically created in the same place and in the same sectors. An active policy is needed so that workers' rights are not forgotten in the transition, with deteriorating working conditions and vulnerability as a result.
As a trade union aid actor, we at Union to Union, with our members LO, TCO and Saco, see the importance of the unions' commitment to the work for a socially just transition - a "Just Transition". Strong support for this in development aid is crucial for a change in which ecological, economic and social sustainability are linked.
EU parliamentarians must work for decent jobs
That is why we want to encourage the Swedish EU parliamentarians to work actively to prioritize issues relating to decent working conditions and trade union rights in the EU's development policy. This is one of the most important issues of our time.
Only with development assistance that sees the link between job creation, decent working conditions and poverty reduction can long-term and sustainable development be created.