EI calls on Employment and Labour Ministers in G20 countries to refocus on education

published 29 August 2019 updated 3 September 2019

Education International leadership attending the G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial meeting remind ministers that education has to be part of any meaningful long-term strategy to address our common challenges.

Susan Hopgood, Education International (EI) President and David Edwards, EI General Secretary, are attending the Labour 20 meeting in Japan. Convened by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the OECD, the Labour 20 represents the interests of workers at the G20 level and brings together labour unions across G20 countries and Global Union Federations.

While the 2018 Labour 20 meeting in Mendoza introduced the first Education 20 engagement group and highlighted the importance of investing in quality life-long education, this priority is conspicuously absent from this year’s agenda. In a blog published in the run-up to the meeting, David Edwards reminded leaders that climate change, just transitions and the future of work are all fundamentally dependent on education. “It is lamentable that the G20 will not be acknowledging the central need for an inclusive, equitable and quality education system that develops the whole of the student for the whole of their lives,” the EI General Secretary wrote, adding that “we are at a time where we know what works, but we are ignoring the facts. OECD has been consistent in stressing that education for sustainable futures is critical but G20 countries continue to cut investment and push privatisation solutions that have been shown not to work.” Edwards called for more transnational cooperation based on a common drive to develop critical thinking in students and provide life-long learning opportunities to build a future that benefits everyone and our planet.

In Japan, Susan Hopgood brought the perspective of educators to the table during a seminar session she was invited to chair. Opening the session on “A labour protection floor: fundamental rights, working time, wages, occupational health and safety,” the EI President highlighted the fact that too many workers are locked into precarious work, including in education where many teachers, university staff and other education support personnel are on short or fixed-term contracts. Hopgood warned that “protection of rights may exist on paper, but the absence of a long-term employment relationship makes them vulnerable to abuse.”  In addition, the quest for flexibility has undermined protective legislation and collective bargaining. “It has contributed to a growing class of working poor and has accentuated inequality.” In terms of occupational health and safety, Hopgood noted that many threats remained, with climate change looming large for the entire world. In the midst of a politically-driven individualisation of our lives, Hopgood invited participants to discuss human-centred ways to organise the future of work that “enhance rather than undermine solidarity, that can reduce isolation and foster cooperation which will strengthen rather than erode democracy, including industrial democracy.”

Education International will continue to advocate for quality education systems in the G20 and around the world and a better future for workers with a life-long learning guarantee.