OSLO The IMF's latest push for more spending on job creation and care for the poorest in society shows it is more than just a tough-love provider of economic aid in return for austerity measures, its boss said on Monday.
Since the onset of the global crisis, the fiscally strict International Monetary Fund has become an advocate for government efforts to boost the economy, believing that job creation should take priority over the need to limit mounting debts.
"It's not a softer face, it's a more realistic face," Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn told Reuters on the sidelines of a jobs conference in the Norwegian capital, when asked about the new focus of the Washington-based lender.
"This is in line with our mandate ... to take care of jobs, growth and trade. This provides economic sustainability."
Strauss-Kahn said the IMF's experience in assisting countries out of past crises had triggered the change. He said its aid programmes over the past 3 years included not only strict budget limits but also unemployment or job targets.
"Clearly, if people have some ownership of the programme (it works better), so we take care of the most vulnerable," he said, adding that the move was not about ditching austerity.
"It's not a face of austerity, it's a face of responsibility," Strauss-Kahn said of the IMF public profile.
"Responsibility which includes fiscal sustainability, fighting against inflation and also ... the fact that you have to take care of the other part of economic life (jobs)."
The Oslo conference is the first-ever held jointly by the IMF and the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency which promotes social justice and labor rights.
"What is changing today is that really for the first time collaboration with the ILO is at a high level and both sides are happy," Strauss-Kahn said.
During the conference, Strauss-Kahn said it was a "misleading caricature" to think the IMF cared only about macroeconomic targets and that unemployment was "about far more than just a pay check."
The conference pack included a 97-page booklet on tackling the global jobs crisis, with a chapter co-written by the IMF and the ILO -- two organizations that have at times been on opposite sides of debates about how to fix global economic problems.
"If you listen to unions, they say we have never seen a chapter written jointly by the IMF and ILO. They don't agree with everything but now they see we can work together," he said.
(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)