11 May 2009Representatives of governments, oil companies and workers today began a week-long meeting hosted in Geneva by the United Nations labour agency to discuss the impact of the global economic downturn on employment in the oil and gas sector. The meeting will focus on a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) which forecasts a deficit of more than 6,000 skilled workers in the oil industry by 2010.“This is a conservative estimate. The reality could be worse. The shortage of skilled workers has its roots in the job cuts and lack of recruitment during the 1990s, perceived poor and dangerous working conditions, and is now aggravated by the current economic crisis,” said Elizabeth Tinoco, Director of ILO’s Sectoral Activities Department.According to the report, employment in the oil and gas extraction subsector peaked at about 4 million jobs in 2004 and gradually declined to the level of about 3 million in 2006. Another 1.5 million workers is estimated to work in the world’s oil refining industry.Ms. Tinoco noted that the oil industry alone cannot sufficiently increase the pool of skilled workers and that governments have a key role to play. “The report suggests that dialogue between governments and the oil industry, including workers’ organizations, should be conducted so that the larger pool of skilled entrants to the workforce is well equipped for oil industry work,” she said.The report also pointed out important wage gaps, depending on occupation, skills and gender, and highlighted occupational safety and health issues. Unionization levels are low and falling throughout the oil industry, it added.The 11-14 May meeting will discuss issues such as how to ensure that workers’ rights are respected, as well as working conditions and working time.