Combatting the COVID-19 Crisis: How Decent Work Makes a Difference


7 October 2020 - This year, the World Day for Decent Work takes place against a background of the jobs crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis illustrates the importance of investing in decent work in order to rebuild labour markets in a better way.


The Global Deal flagship report ‘Social Dialogue, Skills and COVID-19’ (forthcoming 20 October 2020), describes how the pandemic has exposed and also deepened existing deficits in decent work. Groups of workers who were already in a vulnerable labour market position have suffered most. Low wage workers and workers in non-standard forms of employment, such as fixed term contracts or gig-work, have faced disproportionally more job cuts while at the same time being the least able to withstand shocks. Workers in non-standard forms of employment have reduced access to social security, and, like low wage workers, may not have sufficient savings to cope with loss of income.


Decent work however can make a big difference. Economies where social dialogue is well-anchored have successfully shielded jobs from the pandemic by swiftly concluding social pacts on job retention schemes such as short-time work. Having access to sick pay helps to contain the spread of the virus as it allows workers who are sick to stay at home. Moreover, social dialogue institutions that provide a collective voice have turned out to be essential during the pandemic, by allowing workers to express their concerns and demands and obtain the protection they need at the workplace. Ensuring decent work is also crucial in protecting lives, as shown for example by the fact[1] that morbidity rates among care residents in nursing facilities are significantly lower in organised workplaces where staff has better access to protective equipment.


The situation brought about by COVID-19 shows that providing decent work strengthens resilience and helps businesses to survive in a crisis, whereas the lack of it can function as an accelerator for the pandemic. It should therefore be a core part of the blueprint to rebuild labour markets and restore jobs.


With its partners committing to a number of actions to achieve decent work, not least by promoting living wages, respecting the right to organise, investing in social dialogue capacity, pursuing gender equality, addressing non-standard forms of employment and informal work and enhancing access to social protection, the Global Deal helps place social dialogue at the centre of the recovery.

[1] Example concerns nursing facilities in New York. See Adam Dean, Atheendar Venkataramani, and Simeon Kimmel, Mortality Rates From COVID-19 Are Lower In Unionized Nursing Homes.


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