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Your Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corp
The ILO Director for the Pacific Island Countries Mr Donglin Li
Our Tripartite Partners Fiji Commerce and Employers’ Federation and Fiji Trades Union Congress
Permanent Secretaries
Board Members of the National Employment Centre
Invited Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Bula Vinaka and a very good evening to everyone!

I am delighted and honoured to be here this evening to launch Fiji’s first ever National Employment Policy.

When we look at the history and journey of our National Employment Policy we can proudly say that we have certainly come a long way.

In 2008 we experienced a global financial crisis that affected employment worldwide. In response to this a Global Jobs Pact was adopted by the ILO in 2009.

In that same year Government promulgated the National Employment Centre Act to provide employment opportunities to the unemployed in Fiji.

Under that Act the National Employment Centre was established in 2010.

Since then the Centre has been providing registration, training, and placement services.

In 2010 Fiji ratified the ILO Employment Policy Convention committing to developing and implementing a National Employment Policy for Fiji.

In 2017 the NEC Board began the work of formulating a National Employment Policy.

I commend the work of the Board and the National Employment Policy Technical Committee comprising workers, employers and Government representatives including our youths, our training institutions, statutory authority and non-government organizations.

Your tireless work over the years has culminated into the event we are celebrating this evening.

I thank you for joining us this evening in this landmark event as we move forward together with the shared vision to stimulate economic growth and development, overcome unemployment and underemployment and promote full, productive and freely chosen employment through Fiji’s first National Employment Policy.

At the moment we are facing a high unemployment rate of 18 percent for youths and a general unemployment rate of 4.5 percent which is the lowest unemployment rate we have experienced in the last 15 years.
This has been a result of strong economic management and consistent policies along with targeted investment in infrastructure and service delivery, resulting in 8 years of consecutive economic growth.

Our longer vision under our National Development Plan is to achieve less than 4 percent unemployment within our 5 and 20 year plans.

Government’s vision is to transform Fiji into a modern and dynamic economy, involving all in our national development, and leaving no one behind.

The National Employment Policy is based on the notion of “Moving Fiji Forward” and recognizes that economic growth alone is not enough to meet the challenge of increasing employment opportunities.

We also need to ensure that economic growth creates paid work for those who want to earn an income. It involves helping those in work to move to better jobs and to improve the working conditions of existing jobholders.

This National Employment Policy or NEP identifies and implements ways to improve the growth and quality of employment in Fiji and fulfils our commitment under the ILO Employment Policy Convention that we have ratified.

With our adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Government has committed to making progress on growing opportunities for employment and meeting the SDG Goal of promoting ‘inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all’.

I look forward to the implementation of the 10 broad Policy Priority Areas under the NEP.

With a high youth unemployment rate our first priority focus is to create more opportunities for the young to follow clear pathways from education to employment.

We will look at creating closer ties between education providers and training providers, reforming the apprenticeship scheme, resourcing the National Employment Centre, promoting self-employment and volunteer work for the young and promoting work attachments.

Private investment is also an important aspect to creating jobs and we will be looking at ways of improving Fiji’s international ranking in Doing Business.

In our commitment to the SDGs and in our role as COP23 President, it is critical to boost action on Just Transition of the workforce towards environmentally sustainable economies while creating decent work and quality jobs.

We will be looking at policies on green job skills, and providing career guidance to students on green jobs.

Government is committed to realizing that our graduates should not only be job seekers, but should also be job creators.

Under the NEP we will be promoting self-employment to be able to establish and sustain a business and ensure financial survival and increase access to credit by small businesses.

We have seen the benefits of our overseas employment programmes where we have sent our workers to Australia, New Zealand and the neighbouring Pacific Region.

Under the NEP we are looking to promote and grow access to overseas employment opportunities and look forward to forming partnerships with countries and international entities to grow our labour market access and reach.

If we look at the labour force in Fiji there is a high level of informal employment supported by subsistence activities.

Having a proper regulatory framework is important for the informal economy and at the same time, those working in the informal economy should be encouraged to graduate to and operate in the formal economy.

Under the NEP we will be looking at creating more income generating opportunities for those relying on subsistence activities for their livelihood and creating better access to credit for those earning a stable income in the informal economy.

In terms of gender we hope that under the NEP we will be able to create greater gender equality in employment and working conditions. In the 2017 Census there was a marked difference in gender labour force participation where the labour force participation for males was 76.4 percent compared with females at 37.4 percent.

Under the NEP we will be looking at policies to make it easier for women with children to enter paid work and address gender pay gap in Fiji.

Persons with disabilities and finding meaningful employment also feature in the NEP. This is due to the recognition that people with disabilities have limited opportunities for employment calling for appropriate policies, improved access to workplaces, relevant skills training, and better enforcement of the 2 percent employment quota of persons with disabilities in workplaces with 50 or more workers.

Children and employment are also important to tackle and we will be increasing awareness on the negative impacts of child labour in the drive to achieve our broader vision of creating a ‘Child Labour Free Fiji’.

Finally we will be looking at strengthening good faith employment relations and promoting safe and productivity-driven workplaces.

I commend our tripartite partners for continuing to cultivate and nurture social dialogue.

The launching today of our first National Employment Policy is another indication of our journey together through social dialogue. I also commend the ILO for their continuous support in this journey.

As we look now to the implementation of the NEP, I call on your support and assistance to ensure that we together can make a difference.

We will be tapping on your knowledge and experiences and commitment to implement Fiji’s first National Employment Policy. I thank you for your commitment and attendance as we celebrate this milestone together.

Vinaka vakalevu, thank you, and dhanyavaad.

© 2018 Ministry of Communications