Ashleigh Brilliant once said, “Nothing we do can change the past, but everything we do can change the future”. It means everything we do today can help us achieve our goals towards creating an ideal work environment for employees. Ideal work is a good thing as it helps eliminate gender inequality, harassment, and provides more jobs. Ideal work can also help company reduce turnover and increase employee’s productivity as well as performance.
So, how do we work together to achieve the ideal of the future workplace? The answer is by involving yourself, your government, and your business/organisation in an interactive social dialogue.
What is social dialogue?
Social dialogue is a process of negotiation by which different individuals in society reach an agreement to work together on policies and activities. With two types of social dialogue, bipartite and tripartite, social dialogue is aimed to make better welfare workers’ working and living conditions. Bipartite dialogue brings together workers and employers in one discussion, while tripartite involves government as the official party to the dialogue. Social dialogue can also be in the form of formal or informal discussion which takes place at a national, regional, or enterprise level.
To enable the conditions for social dialogue, there are requirements that should be followed according to ILO:
1. Strong, independent workers’ or employers’ organisations with technical capacity and access to relevant information to participate in social dialogue.
2. Political will and commitment to engage in social dialogue on the part of all parties.
3. Respect for fundamental rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining.
4. Appropriate institutional support.
Social dialogue practice in Asia and the Pacific
Social dialogue is not a foreign practice for Asian regions. Almost every nation in Asia has already participated in social dialogue to work towards several goals such as minimum wage, decent work, or safety which was conducted 3 years ago, in 2016 led by ILO. Here is a brief overview of the dialogue in each country.
With their political systems, China, Viet Nam, and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic have a law that limits the scope of activities for unions. This means an ideal of social dialogue goal has not been achieved yet.
In Singapore, social dialogue is conducted by a tripartite way which involves the government in their decision-making process. Thereby, workers and employers are actively engaged in negotiations and consultations for policy formulation.
Meanwhile, in Indonesia, Cambodia, and the Philippines, the people work towards democratic governance which increases the number of a trade union. These countries would face challenges such as the risk of marginalisation due to their fragmented and competing nature.
Japan and the Republic of Korea use tripartite approach for minimum wage fixing, either at the provincial or national level. Japan has bargained a continuous practice towards wages in order to stimulate domestic demand. On the same progress, the Republic of Korea does more effort in their social dialogue to achieve the goal.
Lastly, in South Asia, workers are losing their influence due to a limitation of both employees and employers in the social dialogue. The government, on the other hand, encourages businesses to serve the broad interest of the state which resulted in a close alignment between political parties and unions.
Social dialogue and the future of work
Given the report, we can see clear progress towards decent work and living. However, the progress still needs more attention as the future of work will face more hurdles in terms of gender equality and technology. The ILO report showed that technology continuously develops and gender equality still shows a little progress. Therefore, social dialogue should be implemented progressively to make real changes in these two problems.
In terms of gender equality:
“Social dialogue has enormous potential to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)…However, women workers, everywhere across the world continue to be under-represented in decision-making bodies and processes that shape workplaces and employment outcomes, including in contexts where women make up the majority of the workforce. This is not only unfair to women, but it is also counterproductive for businesses, economies, and societies at large.”
In terms of technology:
“…women lag behind men partly because of their lower share of employment in information and communications technologies and in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, but also because of their systematic under-representation in top management and academia in these sectors.”
In summary, these two sectors will be the major challenge for each region to overcome. Balancing work and family life is one of the biggest challenges for women across the world. Thus, a social dialogue will further focus on this topic as part of efforts to enhance women’s career progression. Social dialogue can also close the gap in the gender pay gap. Additionally, imperative progress is needed to ensure the quality of work in terms of gender equality and technology advancements.