Speaking at the G20 Labour and Employment Ministers meeting in Catania, Italy, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder emphasised the need to prevent long-term scarring of economies and societies and to shape an inclusive, sustainable and resilient response that leaves no one behind.
“We are all aware of the devastating impact of the pandemic on our health, our lives, our societies, our economies,” said Ryder, adding, “It has had a cataclysmic impact on the world of work.”
He went on to highlight three aspects of the pandemic and how the impact was felt in the workplace.
In 2020, he noted, the equivalent of 161 million full time jobs were lost in the G20, and 255 million in the world as a whole. As a result:
- The number of people in employment in the G20 has dropped to levels last registered in 2013;
- Millions of enterprises remain under threat, particularly small and medium-sized ones;
- 108 million people worldwide have been pushed back into working poverty.
“Taken as a whole, this represents a world of work crisis four times as severe as the one triggered by the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009,” said Ryder.
Some Sectors, Groups Impacted more than Others
Ryder pointed out that the pandemic impacted some sectors and some groups much more than others. Women and youth along with those in the informal economy have been hit the hardest and are at the most risk of being left behind in the months and the years ahead.
“So, the pandemic has not only confronted us with the reality of the multiple and growing inequalities in our society,” said Ryder. “It has made those inequalities worse, and presents us with the danger of them being embedded more deeply in the future.”
Recovery Is Uneven
Countries “which enjoy the greatest access to vaccines, the most fiscal space and the highest levels of connectivity can look forward to getting back quite rapidly to pre-pandemic levels of GDP,” said Ryder, noting that in those countries, employment will recover within a couple of years.
Ryder said his biggest concern and the biggest challenge is in developing countries, where limited access to vaccines, limited fiscal firepower and the digital divide will make the recovery even more difficult and unequal.
According to Ryder, “Unless deliberate action is taken, COVID-19 will make the world of work more unequal, more unjust, less resilient, less inclusive and ultimately less sustainable.”
The pandemic crisis has shown us that long-established policy-settings and work arrangements can be modified in ways that were previously unimaginable. We can handle technologies differently (remote work, for example), allocate resources differently and reassess social priorities and values. Ryder cited as an example the frontline workers who have emerged as the heroes of this crisis and how they are rewarded.
Last week at the International Labour Conference governments, workers and employers from around the world adopted a Global Call to Action for a Human-Centred Recovery, which highlights the policies that are needed to shape a response to the pandemic that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient.
Ryder believes it is a roadmap to prevent long-term scarring of economies and societies, and to ensure a recovery that benefits all workers.
“It provides tangible evidence too of the value of involving employers and workers, represented here today by the B20 and L20, in the preparation and consolidation of human-centered recovery strategies that benefit all people, and that will be backed by action,” said Ryder.
“This terrible global crisis requires a global response. It is only with global cooperation and solidarity that we will build a better future of work, one based upon social justice and decent work for all.”
Intelex offers a number of resources for organizations are reimaging the workplace and work as a result of the pandemic.