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Global Call to Action for a Human-centred Recovery from the COVID-19 crisis

Global Call to Action

for a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient

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A top priority for public policy

Creating a recovery that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient must become a top priority for public policy.

The Global Call to Action provides a clear and comprehensive way forward that will enable countries to convert the moral and political aspiration of leaving no one behind into concrete action.”


Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the world of work

The pandemic’s impact on the world of work has been both devastating and far-reaching. It has:

  • Caused losses in working hours, translating into increased unemployment, underemployment, inactivity and informality
  • Diminished labour and business income, including enterprise closures and bankruptcies, particularly for small enterprises
  • Brought new challenges in occupational health and safety and fundamental rights at work
  • Disrupted supply chains, with wide-ranging implications for the workers involved
  • As a result of all the above, exacerbated poverty as well as gender, economic and social inequality
A shop in Hanoi, Viet Nam, was temporarily closed in April 2020 to follow the Government’s instructions on social distancing. © ILO

An uneven impact and recovery within countries

The COVID-19 crisis has affected certain population groups and workers in specific sectors disproportionately, in particular:

  • Women, who have suffered disproportionate job and income losses
  • Young people, a generation of whom have experienced disruptions to education, training and employment
  • Individuals in the informal economy, who have no access to social protection
  • Workers in the tourism industry, many of whom are migrant workers, as well as workers in retail and in manufacturing

There are serious concerns that workers and businesses hit hard by the crisis will benefit less from improving economic conditions, with some parts of the economy or labour market benefiting strongly from the recovery, while others are left behind.

Textile worker in Izmir, Turkey, June 2020. © ILO

An uneven impact and recovery between countries

There is wide variation across country income groups in the response and recovery packages relative to the labour market damage that has occurred. The relative size of fiscal stimulus compared with working-hour losses is much smaller in developing countries.

Access to treatment and vaccines remains highly unequal, resulting in much uncertainty for the global recovery. Low access to vaccines means that fighting the pandemic will continue to rely on measures such as workplace closures and lockdowns. This will therefore continue to have a negative impact on employment.

This also threatens to undo hard-won achievements in poverty reduction and widen the gap between developed and developing countries, reversing the trend of global economic convergence.

Clients outside a fruit and vegetable wholesale in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, April 2020. © ILO

Finding a better normal

…[We have] before us the task of building a future of work which tackles the injustices that the pandemic has highlighted, together with the permanent and no longer postponable challenges of climate, digital and demographic transition.”

Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General

A Global Call to Action

At the International Labour Conference in June 2021, government, employer and worker delegates from 181 countries unanimously ad opted the Global Call to Action for a Human-centred Recovery. The Call to Action:

  • Commits countries to work for an economic and social recovery from the crisis that is fully inclusive, sustainable and resilient.
  • Calls for policies that prioritize the creation of decent work for all and address inequalities.
  • Outlines a comprehensive agenda, with specific measures to promote quality employment and economic development, worker protections, universal social protection and social dialogue. 

The Global Call to Action combines two sets of actions, at the national and the multilateral levels.

National action

The first set of actions 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.

Multilateral action

A second set of actions covers ILO leadership in promoting increased policy coherence at the multilateral level to achieve a human-centred recovery that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient, and support for its implementation.

109th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC). The impact of COVID-19 on the world of work featured prominently in the first virtual ILC. May, 2021. © ILO

Key objectives

The Call to Action asks countries to implement recovery strategies that prioritize full employment and support for sustainable enterprises, the needs of the most vulnerable and hardest hit by the pandemic, and adequate levels of protections to all.

The Call for Action targets four key areas:

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.

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.

Universal social protection

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.

Social dialogue

Social dialogue played an important role in the response to the pandemic in many countries and sectors. 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 strengthened.

Health workers in Indonesia during the COVID-19 pandemic, June 2020. © ILO

Synergies with other global initiatives

The ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work

ILO’s Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, adopted 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.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the United Nations in 2015, are a universal call to action 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.

The Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

The Paris Agreement 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 sustainable economies is just and advances decent work.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development

Given the profoundly uneven impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, aligning financing flows and policies with the economic, social, and environmental priorities of the SDGs is indispensable to enable countries with limited fiscal space to respond to the crisis, buy vaccines, avoid a debt crisis and implement employment and social policies that are inclusive, sustainable and resilient.


The role of the ILO

The Call to Action commits the ILO – with its mandate for social justice and decent work – to play a leadership role. The ILO will:

  • Use all its means of action to support its member states in the design and implementation of recovery strategies that leave no one behind
  • Advocate for a human-centred recovery and reinforce cooperation with other institutions of the multilateral system

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