Chemical and pharmaceuticals

ILO Global Dialogue Forum adopts Points of Consensus to guide governments, employers and workers in shaping a future that works for all in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries

Sustainable industrial policies underpinned by meaningful and effective social dialogue are key to managing the opportunities and challenges arising from digitalization and other technological advances in the industries that employ more than 13 million workers

News | 18 December 2018
© M. Crozet / ILO 

GENEVA (ILO News) – Representatives of governments, employers and workers from around the world gathered at the ILO from 10 to 12 December 2018 to discuss challenges and opportunities arising from digitalization in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Points of consensus were adopted to assist ILO member States in shaping a future that works for all in the industries.

“The chemical and pharmaceutical industries are critical to the economic development of all ILO member States and key to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, the Chairperson of the meeting, Mr. Dongwen Duan, said. “While digitalization may increase productivity and offer new opportunities for small- and medium-sized enterprises, it could also cause disruption in the industries.”

Automation and digitalization are not new phenomena in the high-tech chemical and pharmaceutical industries. However the breath-taking speeds with which these ever-evolving technologies are introduced are unprecedented. Along with globalization, demographic and climate change, they will have a profound impact on enterprises and workers.

“In the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, the future of work is already here”, said Mr César Gomez, the government vice-chairperson of the forum. “We need to address the opportunities and challenges now. The more we consult and understand each other’s views, the greater our chances of ensuring that the future will work for all”.

Chemical and pharmaceutical products are used everywhere: from manufacturing to makeup, from food production to medicine, and beyond. Chemicals is the second biggest manufacturing industry and pharmaceutical products are key to advancing health and wellbeing.

“The fundamental challenge that we are faced with is to ensure that employers and workers today have the skills needed tomorrow”, said the employers’ vice-chairperson, Mr. Matthias Dipper. “if the industries are to remain viable in the future, we also need a change of mind-set and must embrace new ways of working”.

The meeting agreed that sustainable industrial policies to advance decent work in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries should be based on the ILO Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all (2015).

“Our members throughout these sectors are already experiencing significant changes to their jobs and working conditions from the digitalisation process”, said the workers’ vice-chairperson, Mr. Anthony Devlin. “Workers must have a seat at the decision-making table, in order to ensure that none are left behind during these technological advancements”.

The Global Dialogue Forum was held at the eve of the ILO’s centenary in 2019. “During the forum we have witnessed how powerful social dialogue at the sectoral level can be”, said Alette van Leur, Director of the ILO Sectoral Policies Department. “I am convinced that the Points of Consensus will guide our constituents at the global, regional and national level – and those in other economic sectors as well – to shape the future of work we want”.