A Global scan of the impact of Employment Programmes on post-COVID-19 Recovery

Summary of speech given at the Limpopo 2022 EPWP Summit

News | 31 March 2022
On 31 March 2022 Mito Tsukamoto, the Chief of the ILO’s Development and Investment Branch in the Employment Policies Department spoke at the 4th Limpopo EPWP Summit . The summit focused on Job opportunities through a socio-economic recovery from COVID-19 under the theme “Contexualising the Role of EPWP in Economic Recovery Post COVID-19 Pandemic”.

Ms Tsukamoto opened by citing President HE Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech at the ILO Global Summit on COVID-19 and the World of Work where he said “«We have to transform our domestic policy framework to support the creation of decent and sustainable work….a Future of Work... centered on the world of work, technological advances, demographic and environmental changes…invest in job creation initiatives …to rebuild shattered lives and economies and ….to leave No One Behind».

She drew parallels to her work with the EPWP in 2010, looking at different counter cyclical measures to deal with the Financial Crisis and Great Recession and now, 12 years later, talking about these same programmes for addressing the socio-economic recovery for COVID-19. Back then, she noted that the ILO supported south-south learning between Public Employment Programmes, which contributed to the extension of Social Protection while creating job opportunities as part of active labour market policies. Today, she emphasized the potential these programmes still have , if designed, implemented and monitored well, to not only maximize employment, but most importantly for addressing the quality of employment.
Ms Tsukamoto went on to point out some of the impacts of COVID-19 including the loss of employment, widening of the productivity gap between developed and advanced economies, the disproportionate impact on young people and women, how the disparate ability to provide stimulus packages effected recovery, and the correlation between vaccination rates and economic recovery.

She also highlighted some of the particular challenges faced in South Africa such as:
  • Water and sanitation
  • Housing
  • Access to Healthcare
  • Infrastructure (to access needed public services).
These were followed by capacities that were noted to be missing such as manufacturing of face masks and equipment, access to essential services, and the financial tools necessary during these times.

She described how, in response to COVID, various ILO Employment Intensive Investment Programmes (EIIPs) and other ILO supported projects readjusted their activities to help enhance capacities and address similar challenges. Some examples of these were:
  • Providing water and sanitation facilities in Mindanao, the Philippines, bringing communities closer and contributing to peace and stability
  • Providing OSH training to both Syrian refugees and host communities, in Lebanon and Jordan
  • Rehabilitation of healthcare facilities in Sudan
  • Facemasks and handwashing systems for workplaces produced in Mauritania
  • Encouraging PEPs to evaluated how to readjust their own programmes
These all reflect efforts toward “building back better” rather than just doing the same things. By committing to place the goal of full, productive and freely chosen employment, as well as addressing the needs of the most vulnerable and hardest hit by the pandemic, and the promotion of sustainable enterprises, jobs and incomes at the heart of gender-responsive strategies, the ILO Director General called for a more human-centered recovery from the crisis, a recovery tailored to specific situations and taking into account national circumstances and priorities. The basis for such a human-centered recovery is Decent work, with all the elements that entails including:
  • Securing a job and income
  • Working in safe working conditions
  • Having a social protection system
  • Social dialogue with all relevant partners
  • Consider the labour rights and standards in question.
Ms Tsukamoto asserted that Public Employment Programs (PEPs) will play a large role in a human-centered agenda focused on quality employment. These programs can promote good labour practices, make the most vulnerable more employable, address inequality and structural problems in the economy, ensure appropriate wages, and they are able to support the social contract and advocate for an employment floor. A human centered recovery can be furthered by increasing the investment in people's capabilities - inclusion in the labour market, supporting demographic shifts and the transition to a low-carbon economy, gender empowerment, and life cycle of SPF and by increasing investments in decent and sustainable work and in the institution of work – expanding time sovereignty (e.g. flexible work arrangement in PWP); using technology for decent work (e.g. GIS).

In line with other speakers, she asserted that if we put our minds together to increase investment in decent and sustainable work, sectoral strategies can help to build structural transformation and increase productivity. They can create long-term investment, especially in the real economy, and help to develop measurable indicators for the quality of employment - something the ILO has been working on. Measurable indicators would allow us to assess how those investments are being used.

She continued by saying that PEPs and Investments can be used to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. By promoting a speedy, equitable and transformative recovery they can improves people’s lives, contribute to addressing some of the social ills we face and support the green and care sectors. These changes can enhance resilience and support the just transition. Their spill over effects, or multipliers, can speed the recovery while promoting an equitable and transformative recovery improving people’s lives.

In terms of the context of these programs in this pandemic, she stressed that social dialogue was important in findings ways to adapt to the crisis. Employment stimulus programmes have been shown to create additional funding to subsidize the significant losses. That PEPs significance as a bridge between social protection and offering an employment floor has gained prominence.

The ILO is playing a leading role the work related to the UN Secretary General’s Global Accelerator for Jobs and Social Protection which was launched in Sept 2021. Ms Tsukamoto highlighted some key points:
  • The importance of a job-rich recovery and a just transition to create 400 million jobs and extend social protection to 4 billion people currently without coverage.
  • It is also about Develop integrated national and inclusive recovery strategies for decent job creation (e.g. care and green), universal social protection, and ensuring that there is a just transition, and ensure aligned with macro-economic and fiscal policies and underpinned by sound data.
  • To be able to expand investments in a Social Protection Floor as a % of GDP of national budgets.
  • Designing policy measures to extend social protection to workers in the informal economy, formalization of enterprises and employment, including in the care economy
  • Creating active labour market policies to help workers upskill and reskill, adapt to green and digital technologies
  • Sound financial architecture to mobilize investments
  • Strengthening collaboration with private sector
  • Align strategies with the Paris Climate Accords
She concluded by saying that while many of these things are not new to anyone, more focus and maybe a readjustment may be needed to be able to
  1. Increase meaningful jobs - labour intensitivity through the use of appropriate technologies including Indigenous and traditional technologies;
  2. Strengthening quality employment including more meaningful indicators to assess impact of employment interventions; and
  3. Increase productivity through innovation and design.
It is important that we find solutions or these meaningful together. That we come together and try to bring in differing perspectives to solve the many problems facing us.