COVID-19: EU and ILO join forces to improve labour governance and working conditions in Iraq

A new project will address a number of labour market challenges imposed by the pandemic, and meet some of the longer-term decent work priorities of Iraq.

News | 23 November 2020
Iraq (ILO News) The European Union (EU) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have signed a new agreement to enhance labour governance, inspection and working conditions in Iraq, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iraq’s labour market, which has been long-hampered by a protracted economic downturn and political instability, now has to contend with the COVID-19 crisis, which is having devastating effects on vulnerable workers in the country.

The euro €3 million project, funded by the EU, will seek to address some of the challenges imposed by the pandemic, as well as the longer-term decent work priorities of Iraq.

Focusing on the agricultural sector, the project will strengthen the labour inspection system in line with international labour standards, through policy development and capacity building. It will also focus on improving occupational safety and health (OSH) through the development of a national OSH policy and programme in consultation with social partners, as well as other technical support to government officials, particularly labour inspectors and staff of the National Center for Occupational Health and Safety.

The project will also work closely with social partners to raise their awareness on labour inspection, OSH and fundamental principles and rights at work, so they can better engage in programmes to promote compliance with labour legislations and respond to COVID-19.

“This project will provide great opportunities for collaboration with our partners the ILO and EU in improving labour inspection and Occupational Safety and Health. For the Ministry, these areas are key priorities, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, as we continue to ensure that workers have access to better and safer working environments,” said the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Adel Al-Rikabi.

“Access to decent work is the main route out of poverty. At the same time, having a job is only one part of the picture. Employment must be safe for all members of society, including women and people with disabilities. This project will support this by promoting compliance with labour standards and enhanced social dialogue” said EU Ambassador Martin Huth.

The project will also ensure that agricultural workers directly benefit from improved working conditions through awareness raising, opportunities to develop their skills, and conducting project activities at the farm level. A pilot initiative to improve working conditions and compliance with national legislation and international labour standards will be developed and piloted on selected farms. The initiative will work through enhancing the regulatory framework in the agriculture sector, improve occupational safety and health measures, and strengthen employment services and support from cooperatives.

“With Iraq’s high unemployment rate, which has further increased due to the COVID-19 crisis, it is crucial to create decent jobs to help people generate much-needed income,” said the ILO's Country Coordinator in Iraq Maha Kattaa. “However, we must also support good labour governance and compliance with Labour Standards to ensure inclusion of as many vulnerable workers as possible, and to ensure that they keep their jobs for as long as possible. Decent work is what this partnership seeks to achieve, through close collaboration with our national and social partners.”

Iraq, represented by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and social partners and the ILO recently signed the first Iraq Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP), to promote decent work and strengthen Iraq’s capacity to mainstream decent work in social and economic policies. The programme is implemented through close partnerships between the ILO, the government and employers’ and workers’ representatives in the country.