Social dialogue: a crisis circuit breaker


1 May 2020 - This year International Labour Day is being marked against the background of a world of work deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment is already shooting up, often at an alarming pace, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) is warning of a massive destruction of jobs to the tune of 305 million full-time positions in the second quarter of 2020.


On the occasion of 1 May, the Global Deal wishes to highlight the role of social partnership in the struggle to address the COVID-19 crisis. By engaging in social dialogue, compromises are being shaped whereby employers maintain jobs, workers accept shorter working hours while governments provide a degree of compensation. By preserving employment, social dialogue functions as a circuit breaker that prevents an initial negative shock from turning into an even deeper and prolonged recession.


As described in the recent Global Deal brief “Social Partnership in the times of the COVID-19 Pandemic”, social dialogue has already stepped up efforts to deliver. The brief features several social dialogue initiatives whereby labour markets’ resilience is strengthened and business incentivised to retain workers instead of firing them. Examples from both advanced economies (Denmark, Austria, Germany, Spain and Sweden) as well as from emerging and developing economies (South Africa, Pakistan and Botswana) are included. They show the capacity of social partnerships to achieve win-win-win outcomes.


During times of crisis, the need for such partnerships is stronger than ever. A climate of trust, built through social dialogue and tripartism, will be essential in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and making labour markets more inclusive and based on decent work. The Global Deal initiative promotes social dialogue as an effective and sustainable way to address labour market challenges, and has an important role to play in presenting good practices and policies for rebuilding labour markets in response to the pandemic.


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