In June 2019, the International Labour Organization’s 187 member States adopted the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, calling on the Organization to pursue with unrelenting vigour its constitutional mandate for social justice by further developing its human centred approach to the future of work, which puts workers’ rights and the needs, aspirations and rights of all people at the heart of economic, social and environmental policies.
Less than a year later, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19 ) has plunged the world into a crisis of unprecedented scope and scale that has made the imperatives set out in the Centenary Declaration even more urgent as the international community engages in a collective endeavour to tackle the devastating human impact of the pandemic.
While restoring global health remains the uppermost priority, it cannot be denied that the strict measures required have caused massive economic and social shocks. With the prolongation of lockdown, quarantine, physical distancing and other isolation measures to suppress transmission of the virus, the global economy is sliding into a recession. As supply chains disintegrate, whole sectors collapse and enterprises close, more and more workers face the prospect of unemployment and loss of their incomes and livelihoods, while many micro- and small enterprises are on the verge of bankruptcy.
First, only by balancing support for enterprises, on the one hand, with support for workers and their families, on the other, will governments be able to address properly the crisis’ human dimension. Governments must tailor their support packages so as to save businesses and jobs, prevent layoffs, protect incomes and leave no one behind. It is necessary to focus on all those who work – including the self-employed, own-account workers and “gig workers” – whether in the formal or informal economy, whether paid or unpaid, and of course also on those who have no way of supporting themselves.
Secondly, the urgency of the crisis and the immediate need for action must not serve as a pretext for jettisoning the normative framework. International labour standards, together with the Decent Work Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development , provide a strong basis for efforts at the national level to “build back better”. These international instruments form an integral part of a broader human rights agenda for recovery.
Written By: Foster Awintiti Akugri the Founder & President of the Hacklab Foundation. He is currently the Incubator Manager for the Stanbic Bank Incubator Ghana (SBIncubator Ghana), an initiative of Stanbic Bank Ghana Limited, a member of the Standard Bank Group.