#ILO; #UnEmplyment; #Covid19Pandemic; #SafeReturnToWork;
Geneva, May 30 (Canadian-Media): The ILO’s latest analysis of the labour market impact of COVID-19 exposes the devastating and disproportionate effect on young workers, and analyses measures being taken to create a safe return to work environment, ILO reports said.
More than one in six young people have stopped working since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic while those who remain employed have seen their working hours cut by 23 per cent, says the International Labour Organization (ILO).
According to the ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work. 4th edition , youth are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and the substantial and rapid increase in youth unemployment seen since February is affecting young women more than young men.
The pandemic is inflicting a triple shock on young people. Not only is it destroying their employment, but it is also disrupting education and training, and placing major obstacles in the way of those seeking to enter the labour market or to move between jobs.
“The COVID-19 economic crisis is hitting young people – especially women – harder and faster than any other group," Guy Ryder, ILO’s Director-General said.
At 13.6 per cent, the youth unemployment rate in 2019 was already higher than for any other group. There were around 267 million young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) worldwide. Those 15-24 year olds who were employed were also more likely to be in forms of work that leave them vulnerable, such as low paid occupations, informal sector work, or as migrant workers.
“The COVID-19 economic crisis is hitting young people – especially women – harder and faster than any other group. If we do not take significant and immediate action to improve their situation, the legacy of the virus could be with us for decades. If their talent and energy is side-lined by a lack of opportunity or skills it will damage all our futures and make it much more difficult to re-build a better, post-COVID economy,” said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.
The Monitor calls for urgent, large-scale and targeted policy responses to support youth, including broad-based employment/training guarantee programmes in developed countries, and employment-intensive programmes and guarantees in low- and middle-income economies.
Testing and tracing pays off
The 4th edition of the Monitor also looks at measures to create a safe environment for returning to work. It says that rigorous testing and tracing (TT) of COVID-19 infections, “is strongly related to lower labour market disruption… [and] substantially smaller social disruptions than confinement and lockdown measures.”
In countries with strong testing and tracing, the average fall in working hours is reduced by as much as 50 per cent. There are three reasons for this: TT reduces reliance on strict confinement measures; promotes the public confidence and so encourages consumption and supports employment; and helps minimize operational disruption at the workplace.
In addition, testing and tracing can itself create new jobs, even if temporary, which can be targeted towards youth and other priority groups.
The Monitor highlights the importance of managing data privacy concerns. Cost is also a factor, but the benefit-to-cost ratio of TT is “highly favourable”.
“Creating an employment-rich recovery that also promotes equity and sustainability means getting people and enterprises working again as soon as possible, in safe conditions,” said Ryder. “Testing and tracing can be an important part of the policy package if we are to fight fear, reduce risk and get our economies and societies moving again quickly.”
Loss of working hours
The Monitor also updates the estimate for the decline in working hours in the first and second quarters of 2020, compared with the fourth quarter of 2019. An estimated 4.8 per cent of working hours were lost during Q1 2020 (equivalent to approximately 135 million full-time jobs, assuming a 48-hour working week). This represents a slight upward revision of around 7 million jobs since the third edition of the Monitor. The estimated number of jobs lost in Q2 remain unchanged at 305 million.
From a regional perspective, the Americas (13.1 per cent), and Europe and Central Asia (12.9 per cent) present the largest losses in hours worked in Q2.
The Monitor reiterates its call for immediate and urgent measures to support workers and enterprises along the ILO’s four-pillar strategy: stimulating the economy and employment; supporting enterprises, jobs and incomes; protecting workers in the workplace; relying on social dialogue for solutions.
#ILO; #SafeReturnToWork; #Covid19Pandemic; #Health&Safety; #EconomicRecovery
Geneva (ILO News), May 25 (Canadian-Media): Return to work policies should be informed by a human-centred approach that puts rights and international labour standards at the heart of economic, social and environmental strategies and ensures that policy guidance is embedded in national occupational safety and health systems, ILO repors said.
ILO. Image credit: Twitter handle
Two guidance documents for creating safe and effective return-to-work conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic have been issued by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The Guidance Note says that return to work policies need to be informed by a human-centred approach that puts peoples’ rights at the heart of economic, social and environmental policies. Social dialogue – bringing together governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations – will be critical in creating the effective policies and trust needed for a safe return to work.
The note draws on specialist ILO guidance documents and International Labour Standards, which provide a normative framework for creating a safe return to work. The document stresses that policy guidance should be embedded into national Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) systems, as these create the basis for safe workplace environments. The guidance can therefore contribute to a culture of continuous, country-level improvement, in administration, institutions, laws and regulations, labour inspections, information gathering, and other areas.
“Before returning to work, workers must be confident that they will not be exposed to undue risks... To help enterprises and economies get going as soon as possible, workers will need to cooperate with these new measures," said Deborah Greenfield, ILO's Deputy Director-General for Policy
Workers must feel safe at their workplaces, both from risks directly related to COVID-19, and indirect risks, including psychosocial issues and ergonomic risks related to working in awkward positions or with poor facilities when working from home, the guidelines say. They should have the right to remove themselves from any situation “which they have reasonable justification to believe presents an imminent and serious danger to their life or health”, and “shall be protected from any undue consequences”.
The document proposes that each specific work setting, job or group of jobs should be assessed before returning to work and that preventive measures should be implemented to ensure the safety and health of all workers according to a hierarchy of controls. For workers staying at home, the risk of infection in a work context can be eliminated; for all workers returning to workplaces, priority should be given to options that substitute hazardous situations for less hazardous ones, such as organizing virtual instead of physical meetings. When this is not possible a mix of engineering and organizational control measures will usually be required to prevent contagion, The specific measures to implement are specific to each workplace, but may consist of installing physical barriers such as clear plastic sneeze guards, improving ventilation, or adopting flexible working hours, in addition to cleaning and hygiene practices. The guidelines also recall that the use of appropriate personal protective equipment may be required to complement other measures, in particular for the most hazardous occupations, and that this equipment should be provided without cost to workers.
The needs of workers at higher risk of severe illness should be taken into account; including older workers, pregnant workers, those with pre-existing medical conditions, refugees, migrants and those in the informal sector. Special attention will be needed to ensure that return to work policies do not create discrimination related to gender, health status, or other factors.
“Unsafe work practices anywhere are a threat to both health and sustainable business, everywhere. So, before returning to work, workers must be confident that they will not be exposed to undue risks,” said Deborah Greenfield, ILO's Deputy Director-General for Policy. “And, to help enterprises and economies get going as soon as possible, workers will need to cooperate with these new measures. This means that social dialogue will be particularly important because it is the most effective way to feed information and views into policies and actions, so creating the best chance for a swift and balanced recovery.”
The Guidance Note, A safe and healthy return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic , is accompanied by a 10-point, Practical Guidance action checklist for employers, workers and their representatives. This tool is intended to compliment and not replace national occupational safety and health regulations and guidance, to help establish the practical details of a safe return to work.
#UN; #GreenShift; #TransportSector; #GlobalEconomy; #sustainable
Geneva, May 19 (Canadian-Media): Transforming the transport sector to be more environmentally-friendly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, could create up to 15 million new jobs worldwide and help countries move to greener, healthier economies, according to a UN-backed report published on Tuesday, UN reports said.
A bus driver in New York City wears a mask to protect himself against the Coronavirus.
Image credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider
The study argues that recovery from the crisis cannot mean a return to “business as usual” for a sector that accounts for more than 60 million jobs globally. Instead, it provides an opportunity to advance the collective effort to achieve sustainable development for all people and the planet, by 2030 through the SDGs.
“Pursuing the goal of an environmentally sustainable and inclusive society requires a structural transformation of the economy, including both changes in the products and services on offer and production processes”, said Catherine Saget, Team Leader at the International Labour Organization (ILO), which co-authored the report.
“This structural transformation, which would include the transport sector, has the potential to create decent work and protect workers and their families, if it is accompanied by suitable policies.”
Making the ‘green shift’
The report -- Jobs in green and healthy transport: Making the green shift’ – is the work of the ILO and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), with the support of the Partnership on Jobs in Green and Healthy Transport – part of the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme.
It examines the employment implications of four “green transport” scenarios in nearly 60 countries, in North America, Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, which are UNECE members.
The scenarios - which envisage an accelerated expansion of public transport, and the electrification of private passenger and freight transport - are compared with a “business-as-usual” approach.
The authors found that if half of all vehicles manufactured going forward were electric, an estimated 10 million more jobs could be created worldwide; nearly a third of them in the UNECE region. Additionally, nearly five million more jobs could be created if UNECE countries doubled their investment in public transport.
A call to action
These measures could also spark job creation outside the transport sector. For example, reduced oil spending could lead to a rise in spending on goods and services, while electrification could boost job creation in the renewable energy sector.
Other potential benefits include reduced greenhouse gas emissions, air and noise pollution, and traffic congestion.
“The inland transport sector is key in the economies of our region, both regarding its share of GDP and employment”, said UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova. “This study highlights some of the key opportunities to transform the sector and make it greener, healthier and more sustainable”.
She described the report as “a call for governments and the sector itself to make the right choices and invest massively in public transport and green technologies to seize these opportunities.”
#UN; #GrandEthiopianRenaissanceDam; #Africa; #Egypt, #Ethiopia, #Sudan
Geneva, May 19 (Canadian-Media): UN chief António Guterres is encouraging Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to persevere with efforts to overcome their differences and reach agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
In Ethiopia, a nine-year-old child carries jerry cans filled with water to her home, four kilometers away from the borehole. Image credit: UNICEF/Ayene
Through his spokesperson, the Secretary-General noted on Tuesday that “good progress” is being made in negotiations between the three countries in hopes of achieving a mutually beneficial agreement.
Going up along the Blue Nile near the border with Sudan, and under construction since 2011, the $4.5 billion dam – also known by its acronym GERD - will be Africa’s biggest hydroelectric power plant once completed.
Negotiations centre on the pace at which Ethiopia fills the 74 billion cubic metre reservoir behind the dam and the impact that could have on water supplies downstream in Sudan and Egypt.
Ethiopia is keen to start filling the reservoir in July.
“The Secretary-General underscores the importance of the 2015 Declaration of Principles on the GERD, which emphasizes cooperation based on common understanding, mutual benefit, good faith, win-win, and the principles of international law,” the spokesman said.
“The Secretary-General encourages progress towards an amicable agreement in accordance with the spirit of these Principles,” he added.
Cairo, Addis Ababa and Khartoum have all indicated their willingness to resume discussions, but differences linger over the appropriate mechanism for such talks.
UN experts say that Egypt wants to put international pressure on Ethiopia to agree to a proposal - put forward by the United States and World Bank - on the dam’s first filling and annual operation.
But Ethiopia is rejecting that idea as severely limiting the dam’s capacity to generate electricity and curtailing rights to future upstream development, among other reasons.
Egypt also insists that Ethiopia must not start filling the reservoir until an agreement is reached, in line with its interpretation of the Declaration that Ethiopia is contesting.
The Secretary-General encourages progress towards an amicable agreement -- UN Spokesperson
The Declaration, signed in March 2015, outlines the parties’ commitment to cooperation and to resolve differences through negotiations. It also states that if a dispute cannot be resolved, the matter can be referred to the heads of State and Government with an option for a joint request for mediation.
Ethiopia favours resolving the dispute at the trilateral level and has historically been against internationalizing the issue, seeing no mediation role for the United Nations.
On 13 May, Sudan’s Ministry of Irrigation said that the country could not agree to an Ethiopian proposal on the initial filling as it failed to address longer-term technical, legal and environmental issues.
According to news reports, Egypt also dismissed the Ethiopian proposal on the initial filling, writing a letter to the Security Council on 1 May calling on Ethiopia to respect its obligations and resume talks.
#UN; #ILO; #DevelopingCountries; #Covid19Pandemic; #SocialProtection
ILO, May 14 (Canadian-Media): The spread of COVID-19 in developing countries has exposed gaps in social protection coverage which could compromise recovery plans, expose millions of people to poverty and affect global readiness to cope with similar crises, according to two policy briefs issued Thursday by the International Labour Organization (ILO), UN reports said.
A worker cleans finished wood flooring in a factory in Zhejiang, China. Image credit: ILO
The report on Social protection responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries, describes social protection as “an indispensable mechanism for delivering support to individuals during the crisis”. It looks at response measures introduced in some countries, such as the removal of financial barriers to quality health care, and protecting incomes and jobs, among other interventions.
The ability to access affordable, quality, healthcare has become “a matter of life and death”, the UN labour agency brief says.
Coronavirus, one deadly threat among others
It cautions policy makers against a singular focus on COVID-19, which could reduce the ability of health systems to respond to other conditions that kill people daily. According to its data, 55 per cent of the world’s population – 4 billion people – lack social insurance or social assistance. Only 20 per cent of unemployed people are covered by unemployment benefits.
The second brief - Sickness benefits during sick leave and quarantine: Country responses and policy considerations in the context of COVID-19 – warns that gaps in sickness benefit coverage, results in anxious workers being forced to go to work when they are ill, or should self-quarantine, increasing the risk of infecting others. The related income loss increases the risk of poverty for workers and their families.
It calls for urgent, short-term measures to close the coverage gaps – which, in turn, would bring about support for public health, poverty prevention and promotion of the human rights to health and social security.
Extend sickness benefits to all
It proposes extending sickness benefit coverage to everyone, as well as increasing benefit levels to ensure they provide income security, speeding benefit delivery and expanding the scope of benefits to include prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
“The COVID-19 crisis is a wake-up call”, said Shahra Razavi, Director of the ILO Social Protection Department. It has shown that a lack of social protection not only affects the poor but also exposes the vulnerability of those who have been “getting by relatively well,” she said, as medical charges and income loss, can easily destroy decades of family savings.
Putting robust social protection systems in place can be a huge challenge, says ILO development economist Jayati Ghosh.
Vicious circle of loss
While the need for social protection has never been more evident, these large demands on public fiscal resources come just as most developing countries are facing rapid declines in export and tourism revenues, and capital outflows.
While most developed countries are instituting large fiscal stimulus packages, this is much more difficult for developing countries. Their estimated financing needs are around $2.5 trillion, she says, while the immediately required increase in health spending, is projected to reach between $160 billion and $500 billion.
IMF reserves, debt forgiveness
One way to achieve this goal is through a large new issue of Special Drawing Rights by the International Monetary Fund - reserve assets created to supplement countries’ official foreign exchange reserves.
She also says a halt to all debt repayments (both principal and interest) would be required for one year or until debt restructuring packages are worked out. This is essential because as much as $1.6 trillion of developing country external debt is due to be repaid in 2020, with a further $1.1 trillion due in 2021.
#UN: #Covid19Pandemic; #WorldEconomyShrink; #VaccineDevelopment; #Deaths
New York, May 14 (Canadian-Media): Against the backdrop of the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the world economy in 2020 is projected to shrink by 3.2 per cent, racking up some $8.5 trillion in overall losses – wiping out nearly four years of output gains, according to a mid-year economic analysis by the United Nations.
Shoppers at a market in the Libyan capital Tripoli. Image credit: UNSMIL/Abbas Toumi
In its World Economic Situation and Prospect (WESP) report update, launched on Wednesday, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) said that as of mid-2020, the gross domestic product (GDP) in developed countries will plunge to -5.0 per cent, while the output of developing countries will shrink by 0.7 per cent.
“The global economic outlook has changed drastically since the launch of WESP 2020 in January”, observed Elliott Harris, UN Chief Economist and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development.
The coronavirus has unleashed a health and economic crisis, unprecedented in scope and magnitude, with lockdowns and border closures paralyzing economic activity and laying off millions of workers globally.
“With the large-scale restrictions of economic activities and heightened uncertainties, the global economy has come to a virtual standstill in the second quarter of 2020,” he added. “We are now facing the grim reality of a severe recession of a magnitude not seen since the Great Depression.”
Meanwhile, to fight the pandemic and minimize the impact of a catastrophic economic downturn, Governments globally are rolling out fiscal stimulus measures that equal roughly 10 per cent of the world’s GDP.
Although new infections and COVID-19-related death rates have recently slowed, the pandemic’s future course remains uncertain, as does the economic and social consequences that will follow.
Torn between saving lives and reviving the economy, some governments are already beginning to cautiously lift restrictions to jumpstart their economies.
But recovery will largely depend on how well public health and fiscal measures work together to stem the spread of the virus, minimizing reinfection risks, safeguarding employment and restoring consumer confidence, so that people start spending again.
“The pace and strength of the recovery from the crisis”, explained Mr. Harris, will also rest on “the ability of countries to protect jobs and incomes, particularly of the most vulnerable members of our societies”.
Without a quick breakthrough in vaccine development and treatment, DESA maintains that “the post COVID-19 world will likely be vastly different”, from the one we knew.
Although a modest rebound of around 3.4 per cent, mostly recovering lost output, is expected for 2021, the report spelled out that “the possibility of a slow recovery and prolonged economic slump, with rising poverty and inequality, looms large”.
Trade and tourism are paralyzed, while large deficits and high levels of public debt will pose significant challenges for developing countries and small island States.
The UN forecast makes clear that stronger multilateral support and solidarity to contain the pandemic, along with economic and financial assistance to countries hardest hit by the crisis, will remain “critical for accelerating recovery and putting the world back on the trajectory of sustainable development”.