COVID-19 and the World of Work

Targeted support to MSME’s during Fiji’s COVID emergency

In response to the Fiji COVID emergency, the ILO is working with the Fiji Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport (MCTTT) and the Fiji Commerce & Employers Federation (FCEF) to support Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), including the informal sector.

News | 15 July 2021
Shoeshiners physical distancing in Fiji's capital city, Suva.
The second wave of COVID-19 that started in April is having further compounded effects on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), partculaly the informal sector and those in containment zones. The exponential increase in positive cases and deaths directly and indirectly due to the delta variant continues to rise with many work places and businesses becoming origins of clusters.

Many MSME’s such as cyber café, video gaming shops, gyms, tattoo parlours and spas are classified as high risk and not allowed to operate in containment or non-containment zones. The emergency situation is putting pressure on medial resources, resulting in the majority of the positive cases put in home isolation.

Consequently, Home based business owners, such as those in the creatives and agriculture, including formal sector workers working from home, are now the new set of front-liners.

We have started to develop simple and digestible materials for MSME’s so they are able to understand, comply with COVID safe measures and operate to earn income and employ others."

Mr. Matin Karimli , ILO Director for Pacific Island Countries
He further added that this support by the ILO was also part of the overall assistance by the United Nations in Fiji. In an effort to mitigate against the rising COVID-19 cases and support economic activity and livelihoods, in June the MCTTT released non-negotiable protocols for COVID Safe Business Operations. This set the minimum operating conditions and penalties (fines and imprisonment) for all businesses, including MSMEs in formal and informal sector. The ILO and UNDP in partnership with MCTTT and FCEF organised an on-line consultation with MSME representatives on the protocols. A clear challenge highlighted by MSME’s was the stringent conditions of the protocols, the heavy financial burden on MSMEs and unclear communication.

“The ILO through the UN Informal Economies Recovery Project has developed a four part advisory note for MSME’s to provide simple guidance on the COVID Safe Business Protocols”, said Mr Edward Bernard, the ILO’s Project Coordinator. “These advisory notes and the complementary audio-visual and digital products we will be developing will be used by MCTTT, FCEF and Business Development Service (BDS) providers for advocacy and training”, he further added.

The Director MSME Fiji, Mr Faizal Khan of the MCTTT thanked the ILO for developing the useful products and emphasized the need to promote vaccination in all products and activities for MSMEs. It is envisaged that the development of such tailored products will provide clear communication of government’s policies to all MSMEs including those in the informal sector.