Statement E. Solberg

ILO 100, Centenary Conference, Opening 10 June 2019 Statement by Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg

For 100 years, the ILO has been a champion of: - active tripartite cooperation - binding international regulations - workers’ rights, and - equal conditions of competition and social justice. The term ‘decent work for all’ was coined by the ILO. This concept is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals – especially SDG 8. Decent work is a major goal in itself, but it is also crucial for a socially sustainable world economy.

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Representatives of workers and employers,


Norway was a founding member of this organisation.  In 1919 we pledged to work together to promote economic and social advancement to achieve social justice. Over these hundred years, new technology has transformed our lives and living standards. Life expectancy has gone up. Basic health care and education are widely available, and most people have seen a rise in income. Working together, we have all been able to do far more than we could ever have done alone.

However, new technology, demographics, climate change and globalisation are changing the world – and the world of work – dramatically and rapidly. Our job is far from done, and many challenges remain. Decent work still needs promoting in all parts of the world. Progress can – and must – be made.

When the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the ILO in 1969, the Nobel Committee referred to the ILO’s founding principle: “If you desire peace, cultivate justice.” As we mark this centenary, it is worth recalling what inspired these words, and why they remain relevant.

For 100 years, the ILO has been a champion of:

- active tripartite cooperation

- binding international regulations

- workers’ rights, and

- equal conditions of competition and social justice.

The term ‘decent work for all’ was coined by the ILO. This concept is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals – especially SDG 8. Decent work is a major goal in itself, but it is also crucial for a socially sustainable world economy.


Norway’s labour market is globalised. We benefit greatly from the regular and orderly migration of skilled workers and the free movement of people in Europe. As do most European countries. It has advanced our economies.

At the same time, we have seen that labour migration can put pressure on our labour market, wages and social benefits. We have also seen an increase in work-related crime. We cannot accept this.

Nobody wants a race to the bottom when it comes to working standards or wages. This could in turn lead to increased nationalism, protectionism and populism. And this is a challenge for all European countries. We must take these concerns seriously. We are now increasing our cooperation to enforce the rules that already exist.

My Government is committed to combating crime in the European labour market, in close cooperation with the EU and the EU Member States. Labour inspection authorities in different countries work together on concrete cases. They share information. They learn from each other. And together they are fighting the unfair and sometimes criminal practices that can be found in the European labour market.

There is also a wider global dimension to this – reinforced by global migration flows. Illegal migrant workers have a higher risk of being exploited. They risk being absorbed into black market economies where they have few rights or opportunities. We cannot accept exploitation and the creation of shadow economies. We therefore need closer cooperation on the return of nationals who do not qualify for residency, asylum or protection.



Norway has a long history of constructive relations between the social partners. We believe tripartism can help to ensure that our globalised economy is geared towards human-centred growth and development. As the Global Commission on the Future of Work underlines.

We also consider close cooperation between the government and the social partners to be a competitive advantage.This helps to create stable conditions in the labour market and contributes to economic growth. We have therefore given high priority to the promotion of social dialogue, based on our experience, in our international work.



Norway is one of the highest aid providers, both as percentage of GNI and per capita. A generous aid budget allows us to develop strategic partnerships and support global efforts to reach the SDGs. There is broad political agreement – across party lines – that financing for development is a key challenge. The 2030 Agenda is guiding Norway’s domestic, foreign and international development polices.


I am very encouraged to see that the actors in the labour market – both at home and here in the ILO - recognise the instrumental value of the SDGs. The forthcoming UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) will be an important opportunity to take stock of achievements on SDG8 so far. It should also help us to set our priorities for further action.



With an estimated 40 million people living in slavery today, modern slavery is one of the biggest challenges to global human rights. Modern slavery exists in all countries and in all layers of society.

We are all involved – in terms of the clothes we wear, the mobile phone we use, or the fish we eat.

We are all responsible for addressing and eliminating slavery wherever it occurs. A responsible private sector is part of the solution.  Both government and the private sector must take responsibility.  

I would especially like to thank Prime Minister Theresa May for her tireless efforts to combat modern slavery. The ILO continues to be an important normative actor, and is a pioneer in the fight against modern slavery. Binding international standards are crucial. These must be protected and strengthened. Norway is intensifying its fight against modern slavery.

In these efforts, we want to join forces with other engaged partners. I am therefore pleased to announce that Norway would like to join the Alliance 8.7.



Women make up almost half of the world’s working-age population. But only about 50 % of women participate in the labour force, compared to 80 % of men. Gender equality and women's participation in working life are important factors for economic growth and a well-functioning society. When women do not participate in the labour market, society loses out on labour, tax revenue and valuable purchasing power. Including women makes a wider skills set available.

Efforts to advance the SDGs on gender equality are therefore closely linked to both the ILO's work and the work on SDG 8. We must facilitate women’s participation.

In Norway, public investment in infrastructure, social protection and public care services has been a key to narrowing the gender gap in the labour market. Enabling women to return to work after having children makes it possible for both men and women to contribute. Maternity, paternity and parental leave are now the norm. Public childcare services are widely available. And this makes an enormous difference.

Promoting women’s participation in the labour force has been a major factor in wealth creation in Norway. Did you know that the first female delegate at the International Labour Conference was a Norwegian, Betzy Kjelsberg? She was a labour inspector and represented the Norwegian Government from 1923 to 1935.

The Nordic countries are leaders in gender equality, but we still have work to do in closing the gender pay gap.



While violence and harassment in the world of work can affect all workers, it has a significant gender dimension. Norway fully supports the decision to give priority to this topic at this year’s International Labour Conference. And we support the work to put in place a global framework to combat this serious problem. This is a serious problem that must be fought nationally and internationally. A new ILO Convention will contribute to this aim.



Education plays a vital role in increasing access to the labour market. And in enhancing national development and growth. Education is one of the top priorities in Norway’s development policy.

Greater investment is needed if we are to achieve quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. We must do more to meet the educational needs of all children, including those who are hardest to reach. This ambition is at the heart of our commitment to ‘Leave No One Behind’.

Vocational training is important to meet the challenges of large youth cohorts. Young people need relevant skills in order to enter the labour market. Vocational training is also important for addressing the skills mismatch. And there is increasing recognition that developing good apprenticeship systems is a key element to tackling the youth unemployment crisis. We are committed to continuing our support to ILO’s skills programme.



The skills we learn when we are young will not last for the whole of our working lives. Education and work have to be better coordinated to ensure a process of lifelong learning. More jobs will need to be created, and more people will need to develop the skills to fill them. Norway supports a human-centred approach. Through social dialogue, we must identify which skills are needed for the future. 

In Norway, we have set up a tripartite committee on skill needs. And the Government has launched a reform to promote life-long-learning. One of our main objectives is to establish more flexible models for further education, and to increase tripartite cooperation on qualifications.



The ILO is a valued member of the UN family, and it is unique in its tripartite structure. The ILO is also part of the broader multilateral architecture. The multilateral organisations play an important role in facilitating cooperation between states.

If we are to solve the greatest challenges of our time, we will need more – not less – international cooperation. Still, the multilateral system is under pressure. Isolationist and protectionist trends challenging the rules-based world order.

This is a serious threat to our prosperity and welfare. The multilateral system is a necessity. We must do everything we can to strengthen its effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy.

We need a strong UN. We need a UN that is fit for purpose. But in order to achieve this, member states need to get engaged and ensure that the reforms agreed on are implemented. The Secretary-General’s emphasis on economic development is important. It provides an opportunity to advance the decent work agenda in the UN system and beyond.

Norway is a consistent partner to the UN and a staunch supporter of a rules-based order. This month, we are presenting a white paper on Norway’s role and interests in the multilateral system. We are also stepping up our efforts to strengthen international cooperation.



This is the time to come together to defend all that we have built up over the past 100 years. The ILO has a long and proud history of standing up for social justice and advancing the welfare of workers worldwide. 

But this is not the time to rest on our laurels. As the ILO enters its second century, we must ensure a strong, modern and effective ILO. Where tripartism and social dialogue form the basis of policies that promote decent work for all and long-term sustainable development.

We must ensure that the ILO can guide states on how to adapt to the rapid transformation of production and the labour market. That the ILO continues to develop, monitor, and enforce binding international rules in the world of work.

And that the ILO continues to play an active role in the multilateral system, promoting a human-centred approach to labour in all policy areas, including trade, financial, economic, social and environmental policy.

It is our responsibility to decide the direction we take from here. The future depends on the choices we make now. Norway’s commitment to equality and social justice remains firm. And we will continue to seek common solutions to the challenges we face in our common future.