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ILO conference to focus on saving jobs

GENEVA, Jun 2 – The impact of the economic crisis on jobs will be at the centre of the International Labour Organisation\’s annual conference from Wednesday, amid forecasts that the downturn could raise unemployment to record levels.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, his Argentinian counterpart Cristina Kirchner and Poland\’s Lech Kaczynski are due to attend a jobs summit during the two-week assembly, on June 15 and 16.

ILO Director General Juan Somavia is urging the conference to consider a "Global Jobs Pact" to stimulate job creation alongside other measures taken by world leaders to stimulate the economy and credit markets.

"We are seeing an unprecedented increase in unemployment and the number of workers at risk of falling into poverty around the world this year," Somavia said in a statement.

"To avoid a global social recession we need a global jobs pact to address this crisis, and mitigate its effects on people," added the ILO chief.

He is predicting that unemployment will continue to rise until the end of 2010 and "probably 2011".

In its latest forecast for the Conference released last week, the ILO said that the average global unemployment rate could reach 6.8 to 7.4 percent.

That would surpass the 6.5 percent recorded in 2003, the highest level recorded since 1991 when the ILO first began estimating global unemployment levels.

Some 210 million to 239 million people could be unemployed by the end of 2009, according to the UN\’s labour organisation, an increase of between 39 and 59 million people in the two years since the financial crisis began to bite.

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The conference until June 19 will bring together the ILO\’s tripartite membership of governments, labour unions and employer\’s associations from 183 countries.

In a report on the economic crisis, Somavia said employment generally starts to return to pre-crisis levels some four to five years later.

His Global Jobs Pact sets no clear targets, apart from mitigating the impact on crisis on working families and helping to generate a "sustainable" recovery that would encourage decent working conditions.

It advocates 14 policy options that could be adapted to local circumstances, including boosted unemployment benefits, incentives for employers who resort to work sharing, wage subsidies, better skills training, protection for pensions, and support for small and medium-sized enterprises caught in the credit crunch.

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