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G20 Labour Ministers tackle key issues, but vision is lacking

11 September 2020

The Ministerial Declaration adopted by G20 Labour and Employment Ministers on 10 September covers a raft of crucial issues as the Covid-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on jobs and livelihoods, but the sense of urgency required to tackle the scale of the challenges is lacking.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “We welcome the references in the Declaration to priority issues such as jobs, social protection and safety at work. With 400 million jobs lost and hundreds of millions of informal economy livelihoods impacted, keeping people in work and investing in care, infrastructure and other areas is massively important. And occupational health and safety is critical to saving lives and impeding the spread of the virus with its devastating impacts on health and on the economy.

The Ministers have also pledged to work for social protection for all, although a commitment to a global social protection fund for the most vulnerable is sadly absent. The need to formalise informal work, and end the misclassification of workers in platform and other businesses is recognized in the Declaration, which also gives priority to securing the economic future of young people and achieving gender equality at work”.

Pierre Habbard, TUAC General Secretary said: “Labour ministers renewed their support for close cooperation between the OECD and the ILO to help G20 members develop recovery solutions. It is essential that both organisations continue to work hand-in-hand to that end. This will help strengthen our labour market institutions, address the uncontrolled rise in inequalities and meet the digitalization challenge.”

The Ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to fundamental ILO standards, and to the ILO Centenary Declaration adopted last year, including specific reference to global supply chains. The reference to health and safety at work is particularly relevant and the ITUC is looking to governments to support the move to elevate occupational health and safety to the status of a fundamental right at the ILO. The right to be protected from death and disease caused by work must be sacrosanct.

While the Ministers’ Declaration does touch on many key topics, it lacks vision and a real sense of urgency. Labour and Finance Ministers need to work together to ensure the investments in jobs, social protection and health are made and delivered according to people’s real needs. This requires global cooperation.

Governments need to develop and implement industry policy to create jobs and deal with the intersecting crises of the pandemic, global warming and inequality. It is also disappointing that there is no clear and common commitment to maintaining income support for those who lose their jobs due to the pandemic. We call upon G20 leaders to give clear indications and commitments on investment in these crucial areas, and to be held to account on those commitments,” said Ms Burrow.