Protect Worker Health, Support Incomes: ILO Urges Early Action on COVID-19
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ILO released a briefing note that calls for three key measures: protecting workers in the workplace, stimulating the economy and employment, and supporting jobs and incomes.

The note concludes by stressing that these measures will help but cautions that preparedness and early action are critical.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has recommended a swift, internationally-coordinated policy response to lessen effects on worldwide unemployment, underscoring the “urgency of preparedness and early action.” The ILO proposes three urgent, large-scale measures to address the impacts of COVID-19 on the world of work.

The preliminary assessment note, ‘COVID-19 and the world of work: Impacts and responses,’ was released on 18 March 2020. It observes that the crisis has “already transformed into an economic and labour market shock,” with impacts on both the production of goods and services as well as consumption and investment. The authors state that “all businesses, regardless of size, are facing serious challenges,” and sustaining business operations will be particularly difficult for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The note further warns that prospects for the economy and the quantity and quality of employment are “deteriorating rapidly”.

The note also points to “growing signs of a global economic recession,” and identify different scenarios for the impact of COVID-19 on global GDP growth. The estimates indicate that global unemployment could rise by 5.3 million in a “low scenario” and 24.7 million in a “high scenario.”

The authors calls for three key measures:

  • Protecting workers in the workplace from the health risks of COVID-19;
  • Stimulating the economy and employment; and
  • Supporting jobs and incomes.

To protect workers, the ILO recommends teleworking and staggered hours, increased paid sick leave, and occupational support, such as dedicated websites and hotlines. Additional protective measures could include childcare support for working parents when nurseries and schools are closed, and efforts to provide health access to all and prevent discrimination and exclusion relating to COVID-19.

To stimulate the economy, the briefing proposes active fiscal and monetary policies, tax breaks and waivers for social security contributions, and extended deadlines for mortgage payments. In addition, the note says that financially supporting specific sectors, like the health sector, can help to mitigate coronavirus-related economic impacts. To support jobs and incomes, the note suggests compensation arrangements, work reduction, and social assistance. Some countries are introducing financial support for small business, and offering opportunities for affected companies to postpone social or tax installments. The note concludes by stressing that these measures will help, but cautions that preparedness and early action are critical.

Releasing the assessment, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder warned that COVID-19 is “no longer only a global health crisis; it is also a major labor market and economic crisis” that is having a “huge impact on people.” Ryder stressed the importance of engaging with workers, employers, and their representatives to build trust and support for measures needed to overcome the crisis. He called for the type of leadership and resolve displayed in 2008 to address the consequences of the global financial crisis.

ILO plans to update the note as new data and information become available. [ILO press release] [Publication: COVID-19 and the world of work: Impacts and responses

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