The International Labour Organization (ILO) on Monday elected former trade union leader Guy Ryder as the new head of the agency, succeeding Juan Somavia, its chief of 13 years.
Briton Ryder is the ILO's current number two and was widely expected to take over the top spot at the UN agency which draws up and monitors international labour standards.
The Liverpudlian, a former general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, beat eight other candidates including ex-French minister Gilles de Robien who came second in the six-round vote at the ILO headquarters in Geneva.
In a speech after the vote, Ryder said he was "profoundly grateful" to have been chosen and paid tribute to Somavia, describing him as a "giant" in the history of the ILO.
Alluding to his union background, he pledged to promote the views of all the ILO parties, while also pursuing the body's goal of social justice at a time when the world of work "remains in crisis."
"Our duty to the poorest and the most vulnerable must be paramount in the journey ahead," Ryder said.
The ILO reported last week that youth joblessness is almost back at its peak following the outbreak of the 2008 global economic crisis and is unlikely to ease until at least 2016.
The search for a new director general was triggered when Somavia of Chile announced in September last year his intention to bring forward his scheduled departure date for personal reasons.
Somavia, 71, who has headed the ILO since 1998, will end his third term in September instead of March 2014.
Ryder, 56, has held various senior positions at the organisation and has acted as deputy since 2010.
The University of Liverpool and Cambridge graduate was employed in the 1980s as an assistant in the international department of the Trades Union Congress in London.
He joined the ILO in Geneva in 1998, later heading up the office of the director general.
A spell in Brussels followed with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and in 2006 he became the first general secretary of its successor, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), before rejoining the ILO as its deputy.
Under ILO rules the director general is selected by a secret ballot of the 56 members of its governing body -- 28 governments, 14 employers and 14 workers.
The organisation, which last week formally welcomed South Sudan as its 184th member, will host its annual conference from May 30 to June 14, when Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will address more than 3,000 delegates.© ANP/AFP