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Rome forum to focus on ‘fundamental needs’

March 29, 2009

By Guy Dinmore in Rome

Published: March 25 2009

Labour and welfare ministers from the G8 industrialised nations and six emerging economies meeting in Rome will call on next week’s G20 summit in London not to ignore the human dimension of the global financial crisis while urging a reformed IMF to take on a greater role in monitoring social sustainability of policy decisions.

Maurizio Sacconi, Italy’s welfare minister, said the three-day conference which Italy is hosting as holder of the G8 presidency, will address the “fundamental needs and protection of human capital”, including welfare benefits, health and education.

The “social summit”, starting on Sunday, is the first of its kind under the G8, Mr Sacconi told the FT. “The title of the conference – People First – is a signal to the community that people, together with their basic needs, are our priority and that we are also thinking about the post-crisis and the safeguard of human capital,” he said.

Workers’ representatives from all countries will attend, except for China which is not affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation. Organisers said China, with its weak, party-controlled trade union structure, showed little interest in sending a union delegation but would send a minister.

A pre-conference statement by three international union federations said the International Labour Organisation’s “worst case” scenario of a 50m increase in unemployment worldwide in 2009 was probably over optimistic.

“Over 200 million workers could be pushed into extreme poverty, mostly in developing and emerging countries where there are no social safety nets,” the statement said.

Mr Sacconi noted that China was particularly vulnerable to social tensions and, with the number of unemployed already exceeding 25m, needed a growth rate of at least 8 to 9 per cent to sustain its existing workforce.

Weaker societies were more exposed to the shocks of the global crisis which could result in mass movements of people as well as capital. “People move quickly. They migrate. I worry about this danger,” he said.

With redundancies mounting in Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s latest prescription for Italians is to “work more”.

Mr Sacconi said this was directed at the younger generation. “I tell young people to accept any job with humility, even if it were far from their studies. Many of them haven’t attended good faculties anyway,” he said.

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