Together we will be able to build back better

Ms Dagmar Walter provided keynote address at the webinar on ILO’s response to the pandemic - Learning and sharing of global practices organized by Standing Conference of Public Enterprises.

Statement | New Delhi, India (Webinar) | 06 July 2020
  • Mr Atul Sobti, DG SCOPE
  • Dr R K Elangovan, DG DGFASLI
  • My ILO colleagues, Ravi Peiris and Tsuyoshi Kwakami
  • And all the attendees,
  • Namaskar and Good afternoon to you!
I am pleased to speak at this webinar, ‘ILOs’s response to the pandemic - Learning and sharing of global practices’. SCOPE as an employers’ organization, has a mission of improving overall performance of its members, through sustained engagement with its stakeholders.

I feel it is important, that during these unprecedented crisis, we all have come together, to understand the realities and impact of this pandemic and are sharing our knowledge and experiences in dealing with it.

I must mention that the ILO was among the first to identify that the Corona virus pandemic is not just a medical crisis, but a social and economic one too. Despite the lockdown, ILO has actively contributed in shaping global, regional and country specific policy measures to deal with the impact of the pandemic on the World of Work.

The Organization was quick to materialize on its 100 years of experience, which includes dealing with previous emergencies and economic depressions. As an important step, the ILO has been producing Monitors on COVID-19 and the World of Work, which mainly estimates the impact of the pandemic on jobs, work hours and income levels and suggests the desired policy response measures to deal with the situation.

The latest 5th edition of the ILO Monitor, just released, estimates the number of working hours lost in the first half of 2020 equivalent to the loss of 400 million full-time jobs globally. Thus, the crisis has affected the quantity of jobs but also quality of employment and has put already vulnerable groups at further risk – depriving many of their livelihoods.

The impact of the pandemic and lockdown has been uneven for different sectors. Enterprises in the travel, tourism, hospitality, food service, retail and manufacturing sectors have been especially hard-hit, with large portions of their workforce vulnerable to layoffs. However, for most enterprises, production disruptions and plummeted demand for many goods and services, have forced them to suspend or scale down operations, with enormous impacts for workers and employment. I believe that public enterprises are no exceptions to this.

Now, with the lockdown measures easing and most economic activities allowed again, the World of Work slowly appears on the path of recovery. This is the time to be more cautious towards health and safety of our workforces and employers. We will hear more on how to get back to work and practical protection measures from our next speakers on the programme.

Overall, the ILO has provided a four-pillar policy response for recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis:
  1. Protecting workers in the workplace;
  2. Stimulating economic and labour demand;
  3. Supporting employment and incomes;
  4. Using social dialogue between government, workers and employers to find solutions.
At this stage, we must aim to build back better so that our workplaces are safer, fairer and more sustainable, and more effective in cushioning the consequences for both business and workers. A protected and motivated workforce will ensure productivity and efficiency of the enterprises.

We have witnessed governments announcing fiscal and monetary measures to support the economy and enterprises. They are essential to ensure survival of businesses, to keep incomes and jobs protected. Access to health care services and paid leave will provide sense of security and ensure effective work participation.

Now is the time to invest in up-skilling also and re-skilling of workers and employees. We are experimenting with new work modalities, and we must capacitate staff with digital and new age skills on priority. We must implement these measures ensuring equity and inclusiveness. Our ‘New Normal’, should be responsive to the needs of all, including gender, age, differently abled; irrespective of nature of employment, contractual arrangements, be it formal or informal.

Our recovery efforts from this pandemic need to be derived from the process of social dialogue and should be rooted within internationally accepted labour standards, which have been developed with the consensus of ILO tripartite constituents. They provide robust guidance.

Before closing my remarks, I want to share a few key takeaways for participants. ILO has a dedicated web-portal: ,which contains impact and policy recommendations, thematic analysis and practical advice, sectoral recommendations and compilation of government policy responses. They are a great resource for developing your recovery action plans.

Here, the ILO Decent Work Technical Support Team for South Asia has developed Guidelines for the establishment of enterprise-level COVID-19 Task Force on a safe and healthy return to work, and adapted a 10-point Practical Guidance action checklist for employers and workers. Please do check ILO India website for updated resources.

I will also like to mention that from 7-9 July, ILO is convening a high-level, virtual, Global Summit on COVID-19 and the World of Work. The governments, workers and employers are using this opportunity to present and listen to innovative ideas, discuss lessons learned and come up with concrete plans to work together to implement a recovery that is job-rich, inclusive, equitable and sustainable. I would like to extend an invitation to all participants to follow this resourceful virtual event, which is live streamed on the ILO web-portal.

I once again thank SCOPE for initiating this dialogue and I assure you our support in strengthening the recovery of your members from this crisis. I am confident that together we will be able to build back better.

Thank you for your kind attention.

The event broadcast is available here