Interview with the Director of the ILO office in Kathmandu, following the worst earthquake in the country over the last 80 years.
What is the initial impact of the earthquake on employment?
The initial figures provided by the governments show high numbers of people affected. We estimate, based on those figures, we can say that the impact on employment would be around one/third of the labour force of Nepal.
What is the ILO’s role in the response of the earthquake?
We will build on existing programs. We have been working… Employment and social protection is part of the priority number one of the ILO country-program signed with Nepal, with the government of Nepal, in 2013. We have been working on the national employment policy and on the social security law since that time. This gives us a very good platform to build the concrete actions that you want to do now to respond to the situation.
What unique experience can the ILO bring to the emergency response to the earthquake?
We have programs together with the government and the World Bank in which we are working in 33 districts of Nepal. These 33 districts include all of those that were most affected. In the context of this program, we have been working, giving jobs to the people, in all those districts, to work on a permanent basis. This is not just short-term cash for work; it is on a permanent basis, on a comprehensive rural roads maintenance program, that includes training and deep involvement of the government at the national level and at the local level. And I think this is an important point because it insures you the sustainability and some basis to upgrade the activities at this moment including, just to give you an example, all the salaries of the workers on the roads are paid through bank accounts, transfer bank accounts through the government system.
How quickly can the ILO respond to the emergency?
We have 69 engineers in the field in these 33 districts; we have 3,200 workers in the field, working with these 33 district administrations, with our staff, our engineers placed, within those local administrations. So it’s not something isolated in the field, an agency deploying a couple of staff to do some work in the field. We are fully integrated in the government system and this puts us in a position that, I can tell you, that nobody has in Nepal in this moment. We are more than ready to kick-start all the emergency works.