Concept note: 8th Regulating for Decent Work Conference 2023

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 unleashed a crisis of great magnitude, exposing the fragility of socio-economic systems globally and underlining the vulnerabilities faced by people, especially in the world of work. Inequalities between and within countries became starker. In developing countries in particular, the pandemic revealed the extreme economic insecurity and vulnerability of workers in the informal economy. As the pandemic subsided, and while the labour market impacts – ranging from lost labour incomes to persistent gender gaps and limited access to social protection – were still being felt by many, the global economy and people’s lives were hit further by cascading crises. The climate crisis, conflicts, disruptions to global supply chains, among others, have led to rising inflationary pressures, further heightening the uncertainty in the labour markets.

The interlinked crises can threaten the development of the world’s most vulnerable and marginalized populations, including the well-being of those in high-income countries, where the cost-of-living crisis has been unfolding with ever greater ferocity. Not only do these crises undermine efforts to ensure decent work for all but could also hamper efforts to make labour markets more inclusive and resilient and risk further increasing inequalities between and within countries. In developing countries in particular, with large social protection deficits, overcoming these crises has been quite challenging as macroeconomic policies are severely restrained owing to lack of fiscal space and financial constraint. Challenges in global value chains have further heightened uncertainty with many small firms in both advanced and developing countries facing issues ranging from the cancellation of contracts to changes in payment terms, which have had major implications on workers as well as significant knock-on effects on prices. The multitude of these challenges has led many policymakers and researchers to explore the development of alternative policies and approaches to address the crises in advanced and developing countries alike. The crises are impacting workers’ well-being in a complex manner. The climate crisis – heat waves and floods – is already having profound impacts on the lives and livelihoods of people, and these impacts are being felt even more acutely in developing countries.

The RDW conference in 2023 will explore the implications of today’s multiple and interlinked crises on the world of work. There have been growing calls for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all, which provides an opportunity to create decent jobs, address prevailing inequalities, strengthen social protection systems, enhance inclusion, and promote transition from a high- carbon economy. The conference will focus on what transformative policies and innovative institutions are required to tackle the labour and social consequences of the multiple crises in the world, and to ensure a more equitable and just society. Papers are invited to present research results and to propose new ideas and policies with a focus on: (i) pro-employment macroeconomic policies in times of crisis and transition; (ii) trade and global value chains in times of crisis: implications for decent work; (iii) the role of institutions in ensuring decent work and universal social protection; and (iv) regulatory innovation in an era of crises.

The papers submitted for the conference were structured according to the following tracks: