#ILO; #CEACRReport; #seafarer, #workingconditions, #ILOconventions, #inequality, #ILOrecommendations, #internationallabourstandards, #vulnerablegroups, #COVID-19
ILO/Canadian-Media: The Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) is one of the key elements of the ILO’s supervisory system for International Labour Standards. It is an independent body composed of 20 high-level legal experts, charged with examining the application of ILO Conventions and Recommendations by ILO Member States. It has just published its annual report. ILO News discussed the main findings with Corinne Vargha, Director of the International Labour Standards Department.
ILO. Image credit: Twitter handle
1. ILO News: What were the key findings and recommendations of the report?
The key message is that the COVID-19 crisis did not suspend obligations under ratified international labour standards (ILS) and the concrete commitments made by ILO Member States to protect the dignity and freedom of people at work remained during the current pandemic, and will strengthen the resilience of societies in building back better. Any derogations should be exercised within clearly defined limits of legality, necessity, proportionality and non-discrimination.
The CEACR also identified some specific challenges resulting from the pandemic:
During its 2020 session the CEACR formulated some 1,700 comments related to compliance with ILS. These consistently urged ILO Member States to prevent a downward spiral in labour conditions and pursue a virtuous cycle of recovery and development, consistent with lawful measures to protect the health of the public. ILS, coupled with effective and authoritative supervision can be a fundamental part of the solution to this crisis, while recovery measures that weaken labour law protection would further undermine social cohesion and stability and erode public confidence that policy-makers understand their needs.
3. ILO News: Normally, ILO Member States submit reports detailing how Conventions they have ratified are being applied. Were Member States able to fulfill this obligation in 2020?
Knowing it was very challenging for countries to meet their reporting obligations, the ILO’s Governing Body requested Member States to provide supplementary information on reports submitted last year. Nearly 900 reports were received by the start of the CEACR session.
4. ILO News: The CEACR also released an addendum to its previous General Survey of some ILO instruments related to employment policy.
In November 2019, the CEACR adopted a comprehensive General Survey on Promoting employment and decent work in a changing landscape . The Addendum, adopted in December 2020, examined the impact of the pandemic on the application of eight instruments related to the strategic objective of employment. In particular, measures taken to prevent transmission of COVID-19, stabilize economies, reduce enterprise closures and job losses, and support the sectors, groups and individuals most affected by the pandemic, including those in the informal economy. It also highlighted good practices and made recommendations for greater preparedness and resilience in facing future crises. Both the General Survey and Addendum will be discussed at the 2021 International Labour Conference.
#Rome; #FAO; #DigitalFinancialTransfers
Rome/Canadian-Media: In another step towards creating a "digital FAO", the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is committing to increasing by 50 percent its delivery of digital financial transfers and vouchers to beneficiaries.
Identity verification for a benefits program in Burkina Faso. Image credit: FAO
As part of joining the Better Than Cash Alliance, FAO is also pledging to expand its use of digital payments in at least ten more of its Decentralized Offices.
Director-General QU Dongyu set these ambitious targets, while officially joining the Better Than Cash Alliance. The Alliance is a United Nations-hosted partnership of governments, companies, and international organizations that accelerates the transition from cash to digital payments in a way designed to generate savings and boost transparency and efficiency while also reducing poverty and driving inclusive growth.
"We must make sure that farmers and rural population are empowered to participate in and benefit from the digital world," said the Director-General. "This partnership is a signal of our commitment to leave no one behind. Cash in the digitized form will open numerous doors for people engaged in small-scale agri-food activities and offer great benefits. It is a high road to resilience."
"FAO's announcement today is a landmark for the agriculture sector in emerging economies. FAO's visionary leadership means that millions of small-holder farmers will now get the assistance they need more quickly, safely, and transparently. It also means those farmers - many of whom are women - will have access to a wider range of related services to improve their livelihoods", said Dr. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of the Better Than Cash Alliance. "We are delighted that FAO is joining other member UN agencies, including UNHCR, UNICEF, and WFP, in their bold commitment to responsible digitization of financial transfers to those most in need. This is even more important now as the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing poverty and inequality."
Under Director-General QU's leadership, FAO is taking big steps to embrace and produce digital solutions, as they are destined to affect every actor in the global agri-food systems and can be designed to offer opportunities to address the challenges of poverty, hunger, inequality, and climate change.
FAO already uses mobile money transfers. One example is in Somalia where its Mobile Money and Livelihood Assistance platform delivers cash directly to beneficiaries' cell phones, allowing farming families to purchase goods and services they need most in their local markets. Recipients are registered with the use of biometric data, which is evolving into a voice-recognition system, making this a safer, cheaper, and better-targeted means of conveyance than physical delivery and distribution.
Joining the Better Than Cash Alliance represents a step-change in scaling up such efforts on all levels, and participating in an exchange on best practices in a fast-moving sector.
The new partnership holds significant promise, as FAO has already reached more than 19 million people in 58 countries with cash and voucher programs. In 2019 alone, FAO transferred almost $50 million - a bit under half in digital form - to 2.8 million beneficiaries in 29 countries.
As FAO's field activities - aiming to strengthen the resilience of rural livelihoods to shocks by supporting productive investment in agriculture - tend to engage vulnerable people living in rural dispersed and remote areas with limited infrastructure access, its digitalization experiences and needs will complement those of other Alliance members.
On the ground
Scaling up digitized financial transfers enables direct contact to beneficiaries, many of whom have no bank account, and avoids the need for physical cash distribution, which entailed transporting banknotes to hard-to-reach areas - especially amid conflicts or in the wake of natural disasters - and engaging agents to act as distributors.
Today, digital payment options continue to grow, accelerating our ability to reach the unbanked while mitigating financial risks. Building broader digital networks allows broader participation, thus intensifying the pace of adoption and transformation of local economies.
"Cash injects value in local economies, and digital cash is likely to produce an even stronger effect through financial inclusion, by fostering greater access for the beneficiary to credits, loans, and other financial instruments that have typically been scarce in rural economies and have curbed investment as a result," says Étienne Juvanon du Vachat, from FAO's Office of Emergencies and Resilience specializing in cash and voucher design. "A mobile wallet opens the door to more services."
Compared with traditional rural finance systems reliant on trust and authority, e-money can bolster programs aimed at fostering opportunities for women and youth. At the same time, it is quite adaptable to diverse existing community savings and loan institutions such as tontines or hawala, he added.
FAO's showcase project in Somalia proved invaluable when the COVID-19 emergency disrupted movement. Since March 2020, FAO has transferred the equivalent of $38.1 million to over 187 000 households, providing them the means to acquire food and agricultural inputs to support local food security and supply.
In Mozambique, in 2020, FAO deployed an adapted version of the ecosystem initially developed in Somalia to move an existing voucher system onto a 100-percent digital foundation. Beneficiaries, in particular targeted women farmers, use the vouchers to access seeds and fertilizers.
Digitization adds incentives to suppliers to adapt to the technology, helping consolidate system-wide digital literacy and protect beneficiaries' personally identifiable information, which in turn can enhance factors of production and marketing opportunities for broader communities. The process can take time but adoption is rapid, and pandemic containment measures appear to have accelerated recognition of the merits of digitization.
"The greatest challenge in this effort is successfully bridging the last mile connecting FAO to the most vulnerable. There is no single widely accepted means of digital payments. However, we are on the cusp of significant change. Complexity will diminish and as it does, the impact will grow," says William Marvin, Deputy Director of FAO's Finance Division.
As Members pursue measures such as digitizing their social protection systems, synergies for FAO will grow, he says. "Sometimes digital payments work better in the developing world as they are leaping a whole generation. There's a lot of potential for leveraging partnerships between the private and public sectors," he adds.
Russian Federation, WFP provide support to families of most vulnerable school children in Tajikistan
#UN; #WFP; #RussianFederation
UN/WFP/Canadian-Media: The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has begun delivering fortified wheat flour and vegetable oil to the families of vulnerable schoolchildren in the Khatlon Region of Tajikistan, supported by USD 1 million from the Russian Federation.
WFP. Image credit: Wikipedia.
The 1,200 tons of wheat flour and 50 tons of vegetable oil were purchased will meet the needs of around 22,000 households. Families living in Sughd and Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous (GBAO) regions, Roghun town as well as the districts of Rasht Valley will receive similar support.
“For many years, Russia has been helping build an effective national school feeding system in Tajikistan. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, it was important for us to provide additional targeted assistance to schoolchildren and their families who need it most. We believe that this will not only enrich their diet, but also contribute to their educational outcomes,” said the Russian Ambassador to Tajikistan Igor Semenovich Lyakin-Frolov.
“We are thankful to the Russian Federation for its contribution to the WFP School Feeding Programme. COVID-19 has impacted household food and nutrition security, especially among the vulnerable population. The additional contribution comes timely, which allowed us to deliver the food assistance at the peak lean season when household food insecurity is at its highest due to high food prices and limited income generating opportunities.” said WFP Deputy Country Director and Representative, a.i. in Tajikistan Mariko Kawabata.
This food assistance remains part of the WFP School Feeding Programme, reaching over 600,000 students from grades 1 to 4 in 2,000 schools across 52 rural districts of Tajikistan with regular healthy and nutritious meals. In 2020, Russia allocated USD 5 million to WFP to purchase 3,000 tons of fortified wheat flour and over 300 tons of vegetable oil for schools in Tajikistan. As part of its response to COVID-19, WFP provided one-off take-home food rations to 24,000 vulnerable families whose children are part of WFP’s School Feeding Programme.
In addition to providing food, the School Feeding Programme is also supporting the technical modernization of Tajikistan's school feeding system, including the renovation and construction of school canteens, bakeries and greenhouses, for which the Russian Federation has allocated more than USD 28 million since 2012.
Russia is a strategic partner of Tajikistan in the field of humanitarian aid. Since 2005, the Government of the Russian Federation has allocated USD 83.5 million for the supply of food to vulnerable people in the country.
Since 1999, the World Food Program has been collaborating with the Government of Tajikistan to improve the national school feeding system. This reflects WFP's strong commitment to changing the lives of the country's population for the better. Providing schoolchildren with healthy meals not only improves nutrition and health, but also improves access to education.
#ILO; #GlobalBusiness; #DevelopingCountries; #Covid19Pandemic
ILO/Canadian-Media: Up to 17,000 garment workers in Lao PDR affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are to each receive two months’ emergency income support worth 900,000 LAK (approximately US$100), ILO News reports said.
Image credit: Twitter handle
The Lao Social Security Organization (LSSO) today announced that one-time cash transfers totalling US$ 1.8 million would help mitigate workers’ lost income and support business continuity while reducing employers’ staff turnover costs. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is funding the initiative, which has been developed with technical support from the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Eligible beneficiaries, of whom 85 per cent are women, will receive the cash transfers by the end of March.
“This support not only benefits workers and garment factories, it also helps strengthen the administrative capacity and payment mechanism of the social security system, as well as enhancing social dialogue and tripartite collaboration in Lao PDR,” said Padeumphone Sonthany, Vice Minister of Labour and Social Welfare.
The Lao PDR garment sector employs some 26,000 workers. It has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic with many factories scaling back production, releasing staff and in some cases closing their doors.
“We are happy that this support has been channelled to the Lao Social Security Organization. A strong social protection system that is adaptive during a crisis and responds to chronic and emerging vulnerabilities is crucial,” said Jens Lütkenherm, German Ambassador to Lao PDR.
With ILO support, the scheme has been developed in line with international social protection principles including national ownership, joint oversight by government, employers and workers as well as transparent and accountable administration. The Association of Lao Garment Industry (ALGI) and the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFT) have been involved in its development and will support the scheme’s operation.
“The Lao garment industry has been hit hard by COVID-19. Income support will help workers survive this difficult period and businesses maintain their staff so they are in a better position to resume operations when the impact of the pandemic eases,” said Graeme Buckley, Director of ILO Country Office for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao PDR.
This emergency program will ‘piggyback’ on LSSO’s existing delivery systems, helping reduce administration costs and speed up delivery, whilst easing the financial strain on the national unemployment insurance scheme. New payment methods will also be piloted by LSSO, with electronic payments made via a local mobile network operator, increasing financial inclusion for garment sector workers, especially those without bank accounts.
The pandemic has greatly increased demand on Lao PDR’s unemployment insurance scheme, with the garment sector alone seeing more than a threefold increase in payments, rising from 406.58 million LAK in 2019 (approximately US$ 44,000) to 1.33 billion LAK during COVID-19 (approximately US$143,000).
#UN; #ILO; #BusinessGrowth; #DigitalEconomy
UN/Canadian-Media: The UN International Labor Organization (ILO) on Tuesday highlighted the need for enhanced international policy cooperation to provide decent work opportunities and foster sustainable business growth in the digital economy.
A motorcycle rider from an Indonesian transportation startup waits for a passenger. Image credit: Unsplash/Afif Kusuma
According to the agency, digital labor platforms – such as remote tasking, and location-based apps where workers are involved in transport or delivery – saw an almost five-fold increase over the last decade. This surge offered new opportunities and presented challenges for both workers and businesses, it added.
“Digital labor platforms are opening up opportunities that did not exist before, particularly for women, young people, persons with disabilities, and marginalized groups in all parts of the world. That must be welcomed”, Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, said.
The opportunities created by such platforms are, however, blurring the previously clear distinction between employees and the self-employed, said ILO.
Working conditions are largely regulated by the platforms’ terms of service agreements laid out by businesses themselves, and algorithms are increasingly replacing humans in allocating and evaluating work, and human resources.
“The new challenges they present can be met through global social dialogue so that workers, employers and governments can fully and equally benefit from these advances. All workers, regardless of employment status, need to be able to exercise their fundamental rights at work”, Mr. Ryder said.
Furthermore, with platforms operating across multiple jurisdictions, coherent and coordinated policies are needed to ensure they provide decent work opportunities and foster the growth of sustainable businesses, ILO urged.
Difficulties for workers and businesses
In its new report, World Employment and Social Outlook 2021, ILO outlined challenges for digital platform workers, including over working conditions, hours and income, and the lack of access to social protection, freedom of association and collective bargaining rights. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed many of these issues.
ILO noted that working hours can often be long and unpredictable, wages low, and, on some platforms, a significant gender pay gap exists. Businesses also face challenges such as those relating to unfair competition, non-transparency with regard to data and pricing, and high commission fees, it added.
Furthermore, work on online web-based platforms is outsourced by businesses in the global North, and performed by workers in the global South, who earn less than their counterparts in developed countries, which could exacerbate inequalities and perpetuate the digital divide, ILO said.
Against this backdrop, ILO urged broad dialogue and regulatory cooperation between digital labour platforms, workers and governments, which could lead over time to a more effective and consistent approach.
Such efforts would also ensure that work status is correctly classified, in line with national classification systems; there is greater transparency and accountability of algorithms for workers and businesses; and workers can access the courts of the jurisdiction in which they are located if they so choose.
Coronavirus a challenge, and opportunity, to fix remittances system than funnels billions home from abroad
#UN; #MigrantWorkers; #SDGs; #Poverty; #IFAD
Geneva, Jun 2 (Canadian-Media): With a euro here and a dollar there, remittances – the money that migrant workers send home to their families – have been adding up in a big way to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals and lift tens of millions out of extreme poverty, UN reports said.
The small amounts of $200 or $300 that each migrant sends home make up about 60 per cent of the family’s household income.
Image credit: IFAD/Christine Nesbitt
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic – and, ironically, a chance to improve a unique segment of the global financial system that accounts for more than five per cent of gross domestic product for at least 60 low- and medium-income countries – more than the total of foreign direct investment or official development assistance handed out by governments.
“Regardless of whether nor not the (post-coronavirus) recovery will be faster than expected, the global pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of the global remittances system,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the UN in Rome.
“That is why now is the time to fix these vulnerabilities no matter what the economic scenario will be”, he told UN News in the run-up to the International Day of Family Remittances on 16 June.
Last year, remittances to low- and medium-income countries hit a record $554 billion, according to the World Bank, with 200 million migrant workers in 40 rich countries sending home funds to support 800 million relatives in more than 125 developing nations.
Half of those receiving families live in rural areas where remittances count the most, Mr. Houngbo said.
$110 billion drop offBut with the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the World Bank projects that cross-border remittances will fall by 20 per cent, or $110 billion, to $445 billion, potentially pulling tens of millions below the poverty line while undermining progress towards fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
With no V-shaped recovery likely in 2021, savings will be depleted, and local conditions will worsen, as remittances are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels for some time, Mr. Houngbo explained.
“While the reduction in remittances will not fall evenly on all families, nor across all continents, societal impacts will be substantial and sustained”, he told UN News via e-mail.
In response, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – joined by several other Member States, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other UN agencies and industry groups –issued a global “call to action” on 22 May to ensure that migrant workers and diaspora communities can keep sending back money in ways that can also improve the remittance system.
Essential public service
It urges policymakers not only to declare the provision of remittances as an essential public service, but also to support the development of more efficient digital remittance channels.
To regulators, it asks that they provide guidance for “know-your-customer” requirements, that are critical for scaling up digital financial services, particularly for undocumented persons with no access to a bank account.
And it encourages remittance service providers to explore ways to ease the burden on their migrant customers by lowering transaction fees, which now average 6.8 per cent worldwide, more than half the target set in the Sustainable Development Goals, according to the World Bank’s most recent Migration and Development Brief.
‘A lifeline in the developing world’
“Remittances are a lifeline in the developing world – especially now,” said Secretary-General António Guterres on 19 March. “Countries have already committed to reduce remittance fees to 3 percent…The crisis requires us to go further, getting as close to zero as possible.”
For its part, the IFAD says it is partnering with financial technology firms, mobile operators, commercial banks and postal networks, to integrate digital solutions to improve remittance transfers to rural areas.
In addition to its Financial Facilities for Remittances initiative, it is strengthening the ability of rural families to weather tough times through financial literacy and planning programmes, among other capacity-building efforts.
Mr. Houngbo, a former Prime Minister of Togo who has led IFAD since 2017, said that for the past 15 years, the focus of international attention on remittances has been on the “sending side”, particularly high transaction costs.
“We need to emphasize, however, that the development impact of remittances is really on the receiving end – where, at this time, families are struggling with the sudden disruption of their economic lifelines,” he said.