|Job Quality and Small Enterprise Development - Working Paper No. 4 (ILO, 1999, 35 p.)|
|4.0 Lessons from practical experience|
The four components highlighted above may be incorporated into a local holistic approach to developing competitive enterprise and improving the quality of employment and living conditions. A holistic approach such as this aims to develop a coordinated and supportive set of policies, programmes, and institutional actions that share common goals of constant improvements in competitiveness and conditions. Thus, the aim would be to embed small enterprises within an environment and culture that improves competitiveness and raises standards.
A possible means of achieving this coordination could be through a range of representative organisations and agencies. Beyond the usual tripartite members, these organisations should include bodies such as local authorities, universities, and various types of self-help organisations, regulatory authorities, welfare agencies, and financial institutions. A feature of such approaches is that they often bring together people from institutions that might not otherwise come into contact. Thus, members are required to address a number of social, educational, infrastructure and regulatory issues related to local enterprise competitiveness in a coordinated fashion.
Partnership approaches might involve representation on local or regional strategic development committees. In transitional countries, such an institution in the Czech region of Ostrava-Karvina is the Union for the Development of Northern Moravia and Silesia. This Union contains representatives from a range of organisations and is reported to be leading the regional process of change. The opportunities for consensus building and coordinated action facilitated by this institution is said to have helped restructuring and reduced the potential for major social conflict (Nesparova, publication forthcoming).
In advanced industrialised countries, processes of socio-economic dialogue have been largely decentralised, particularly in Western Europe and North America. Such processes are reported to have played significant roles, for example, in regions such as North Rhine Westphalia in Germany, Silicon Valley in California, and in parts of Italy (See: Patti Territoriali, Box 3)
The aim of the Patti Territoriali programme in Italy is to encourage a process of consensus building and partnership at the local level. Here representatives of employers and workers organisations, local administrations, specific enterprises, financial institutions and other interest groups come together to elaborate a written strategic development plan of action, to which all partners formally agree to contribute, and from which all are expected to benefit. In such a pact or agreement, different institutions can agree to do different things, appropriate to their competence. For example, provincial and municipal administrations might promise to reduce red tape and agree to specific times for providing authorisation from different regulatory bodies for new investments. Trade unions might agree to new flexible working practices or maybe assistance with training programmes. Employers might also agree to make specific investments such as new plants, or new production lines, or new machinery to improve productivity or quality, or to take on more workers; financial institutions might agree to provide credit, and provide it at favourable rates. By making such agreements, it is said, partners are given greater confidence to proceed with investments or other commitments; development strategies can be better-focused and coordinated; and more rational use made of possible funds and resources.
Source: Pyke, 1997b
An ILO initiative that goes some way to developing a holistic approach is the WIDE/IWEB initiative. IWEB seeks to address issues connected to business development and improvements in working conditions in an integrated and coordinated fashion. This includes the development of a regulatory framework appropriate to micro-enterprises. As part of IWEB, a range of initiatives are introduced. Training packages to teach improvements in business capacity and working conditions in tandem have been developed. Micro-enterprises are being linked up to business services. Intermediary and self-help organisations are being helped to improve their capacity to provide development services and to become engaged in policy networks. Supply chains and other network linkages are being strengthened with the aim of promoting equitable large and small enterprise exchanges and creating win-win situations. Attempts are also being made to improve the regulatory environment and compliance with regulations through a process of consensus building. This involves representative organisations, service providers, government actors and others (Miehlbradt, 1998b)20.
20 An assessment of a pilot implementation of the WIDE programme in Nepal, Malaysia and the Philippines was encouraging. Participating enterprises were reported to have introduced numerous improvements in both business development areas (marketing, finance, management, and production) and in working conditions within firms; also improvements were noted in areas such as family safety and living environments (Miehlbradt, 1998a)
Such kinds of local promotional initiatives aimed at raising enterprise capability and work conditions can also be linked into area-based social and welfare schemes that are suited to the situation of small-scale enterprises and their workers. This may include addressing the concerns of mobile labour forces associated with contingent or unstable work patterns.
In this latter respect, the idea of social security being provided on an area basis is being tested by the ILO for informal workers typically employed in micro-enterprises in Africa, India and Central America. Such schemes are aiming at full coverage within a specified area and are mainly run by local government in collaboration with a variety of possible social security partners (van Ginneken, 1998; 1999). Thus, through consensus building and coordination, job quality issues can be linked to a range of strategies to promote economic change. This can develop productive, high quality small enterprises associated with rising incomes and conditions.