COVID-19 forces the pace of change in employers’ and business membership organizations, says the ILO and IOE

A new report demonstrates that representative business organizations are affected by the crisis but are nevertheless reacting, adapting and innovating quickly in order to continue to reinforce their role as advocates for a private sector led recovery.

News | 29 June 2020
Contact(s): Jae-Hee Chang, Senior Programme and Operations Officer,; Christian Hess, Senior Advisor,
8 in 10 employers’ globally have reported drop in income as a result of COVID-19 despite taking measures to preserve their operations and increase their influence according to a new report from the Bureau for Employers’ Activities of the International Labour Organization (ILO-ACT/EMP) and Organisation of International Employers (IOE).

The report, A global survey of employer and business membership organizations: Inside impacts and responses to COVID-19, surveyed a total of 127 national level EBMOs in 115 countries between 18 May and 4 June 2020 in order to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on EBMO membership, income streams, service delivery and overall needs and priorities going forward.

The survey results underline that countless EBMOS have been quick to feel the financial impact of the crisis: a near 70 per cent of those surveyed anticipate their membership to downsize in the next 6 months and 77 per cent in coming year. In addition, the inability to offer face-to-face services and training revenue has also affected their financial health. As a consequence, EBMOs are having to plan ahead and take measures to deal with the challenges they face by offering new membership recruitment and retention strategies and new services.

It would be wrong to assume that the picture is globally bleak. Indeed, against this gloomy backdrop an overwhelming 94 per cent of EBMOs globally have scaled up business leadership initiatives during the crisis. EBMOs have engaged in a multi-faceted advocacy effort with governments (97 per cent), the media (95 per cent), social media (93 per cent), other business organizations (92 per cent) and bipartite social dialogue (91 per cent).

“This rich information base, although a snap shot and taken at a time when globally organizations are at different “stages” of the crisis, has enabled us to assess the most pressing needs of EBMOs. It will help the ILO-ACT/EMP and the IOE update our respective offer to them in terms of strategies for resilience and leadership. EBMOs are at the frontline of representing the interests and needs of business in the current crisis to the government, bringing evidence-based policy recommendations to support economic and social recovery, and seeking the opportunity to deepen dialogue with key stakeholders”, explained Deborah France-Massin, Director of the ILO-ACT/EMP. 

“This report is the first of its kind to address the challenges faced by EBMOs and to raise awareness about the possible wider implications of the crisis on their operations and functioning.  The paradox is that a strong collective advocate for the private sector is needed now more than ever: without effective and functioning EBMOs voicing the needs of business to decision makers, enterprise continuity, economic recovery and ultimately jobs will be at stake” stated Roberto Suárez Santos, Secretary General of the IOE.   “ All of this is happening at a time when EBMOs will need to increase and amplify, not decrease their role as the voice of the private sector to decision makers.  As we move forward, it is important that business organisations seek to deepen their alliances at national and international level in order to share knowledge and policy solutions.  Whilst the national responses may differ according to context, a number of common themes related to business recovery and resilience and employment generation are global. The IOE will therefore continue to adapt its own approaches to enable all its members to tap into that global network of solutions” he added.