The four tenets of ILO's global call to action are necessary for a human-centred recovery in India that is “fully inclusive, sustainable and resilient”

Inaugural speech by Ms Dagmar Walter, Director, DWT South Asia and Country Office for India, at the "Tripartite national dialogue on global call to action for a human-centred recovery from COVID-19 crisis in the context of India".

Statement | New Delhi, India | 10 December 2021
Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment and Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India , Mr Bhupendra Yadav,

Mr Sunil Barthwal, Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, GOI

Mr Rajeev Dubey, Council of Indian Employers

Mr Binay Kr Sinha, BMS

Mr Satoshi Sasaki, Deputy Director ILO

Officials from various ministries and departments

State Government officials

Academia, Partners, Media

ILO Colleagues

Participants in the room and online,

Good morning and Namaskar!

It is my sincere pleasure to welcome you all to this tripartite national Conference on the Global call to action for a human-centered recovery from COVID-19 crisis in the context of India. First and foremost I am heartened by the opportunity to meet you all together, in person, after a long time, although we have remained very close throughout the pandemic by learning to master virtual settings. Going forward, we need to harness the advantages from both virtual and physical for best possible outcomes.

The socio-economic impacts of the pandemic left no country untouched. ILO immediately started to track the effects on the world of work and has released regular “Monitors” updating of the situation. In 2020 the average loss of working hours was estimated to 13.7 per cent. Relatively higher employment losses were recorded for women and young workers.

In India, with almost 90 per cent of people working in the informal economy, about 400 million workers were at risk of falling into or deeper into poverty. The country is now experiencing a V-shape recovery and hopefully the employment to population ratio will soon return to pre-pandemic level.

Globally, as also in India, the long persisting trend of growing income inequality has been further aggravated with the pandemic.

Government of India published the Sustainable Development Goals Index Report this year, which also reflects the regression of SDG 8 on ‘sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’ from 64 percent of level of achievement in 2019 to 61 percent in 2020.

Taking this backdrop into account, the Indian constituents to the International Labour Organization have certainly not stood still but took a number of actions, including joining hands with all other member States in this year’s International Labour Conference to demonstrate the World their resolve to tackle and inverse the situation for the better. The Global call to action for a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient was unanimously adopted and later endorsed by the UN General Assembly, as well as by the BRICS Ministerial meeting presided over by India this year.

The first set of actions in the Global call, covers measures to be taken by national governments and their employer and trade union social partners, to achieve an inclusive job-rich recovery that substantially strengthens worker and social protections and supports sustainable enterprises.

The Call to Action focusses on four interdependent areas to accelerate positive developments and impact in this regard:

i) Inclusive economic growth and employment
For a broad-based recovery with decent work opportunities for all, it is critical to ensure that the hardest-hit sectors are able to bounce back and to foster investments with large job creation potential. Policies are needed that can create an enabling environment for innovation, and support small enterprises, skills development and environmental sustainability.

ii) Protection of all workers
The pandemic has highlighted serious gaps in protections for workers. A redoubling of efforts to promote fundamental rights, international labour standards and workers’ protection is needed, including on issues such as adequate wages, limits for working time and strong occupational safety and health measures. The crisis has demonstrated the need to integrate alternative work practices like teleworking, and to seize the opportunity to advance gender equality and combat violence and harassment in the workplace. Ratification of Convention 190 would be an important step in this regard and would have a positive impact on female labour force participation.

iii) Universal social protection
I think we all agree that the pandemic has driven home how important social protection is for all of us, starting with income security, employment protection and essential health care. Universal access to comprehensive, adequate and sustainable social protection, with a strong public sector and healthcare systems, will be essential for preventing future crises and building a better normal.

iv) Social dialogue
that plays an important role in the response to the pandemic at all levels, be it national or sub-national, or in various economic sectors, value chains and businesses. For a strong and sustainable recovery, consultations between governments and the social partners must continue to inform policy, and the capacity of public administration and of workers and employers’ associations should be further strengthened.

ILO’s Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, adopted by you at the 2019 International Labour Conference, supports a common set of principles and goals to the Call to Action. Its roadmap for a human-centred future of work is needed even more urgently now, and provides the essential foundation for the Call to Action that we are discussing today.

India strives to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Accelerated action to achieve the SDGs is even more urgent today as the world responds to the pandemic’s devastating impacts.

Also, the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change seeks to bring all nations together to combat climate change, mitigate and adapt to its effects. As the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, recovery packages must prioritize measures to ensure the transition to environmentally sustainable economies is just and advances decent work.

The UN Climate conference COP 26 just concluded in Glasgow last month with an appeal to all of us to step up our efforts to save the environment – without it there is no future. The ILO was once again instrumental in the agreement of a Just transition Declaration, drawing from the constituent adopted 2015 Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it thus becomes quite clear that what we need to foster in India is inclusive, green and job-rich growth!

Government, Employers and Workers, let us all step up to the task of making SDG 8 a reality for the Indian people! Let us today focus on where there is convergence, where we can find the synergies and work together for impact and results on the ground, so that no one is left behind!

I can assure you that the ILO stands ready to support you and I look forward to our constructive engagement.

Thank you.