Bulgaria, an EU member-state with a population of 7.1 million, is among the highest performing economies in women’s legal rights affecting work, according to a new index presented by the World Bank today.
The index, introduced in the study Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform, looks at milestones in a woman’s working life, from starting a job through to getting a pension, and legal protections associated with each of these stages. The data spans a ten-year period where 187 countries are scored according to eight indicators.
Bulgaria has come a long way in ensuring that a person’s ability determines the job you get, not your gender. This is reflected in the index, with Bulgaria scoring 93.75. It is one of six economies that removed all job restrictions on women over the ten-year period.
Globally, women are accorded only three-quarters of the legal rights that men enjoy according to the index. This is constraining their ability to get jobs or start businesses and make economic decisions that are best for them and their families.
“If women have equal opportunities to reach their full potential, the world would not only be fairer, it would be more prosperous as well,” said World Bank Group Interim President Kristalina Georgieva. “Change is happening, but not fast enough, and 2.7 billion women are still legally barred from having the same choice of jobs as men. It is paramount that we remove the barriers that hold women back, and with this report we aim to demonstrate that reforms are possible, and to accelerate change.”
“Proud to serve a country with one of the best legal environment for women. We have a lot of female politicians who contribute for reaching balanced and pragmatic decisions – the President of our Parliament, the Mayor of our capital city, and two deputy prime ministers are women, said Ekaterina Zaharieva, Deputy prime minister for judicial reform and minister of foreign affairs. “Bulgarian government is committed to continue creating equal opportunities for women and men. Recent data shows that women are more flexible and adaptable to the needs of the labor market than men – only 39.7% among the jobless Bulgarians are women. We hold the first place in the EU of women in the IT sector – 30%. Nearly one-third of Bulgarian businesses are owned by women entrepreneurs.”
Progress over the last ten years in the areas measured by the index has been significant. During this time, the global average has risen from 70 to 75. 131 economies have made 274 reforms to laws and regulations that improve women’s economic inclusion. 35 countries implemented legal protections against sexual harassment at work, protecting nearly two billion more women than a decade ago. 22 economies, including Bulgaria removed restrictions on women’s work, reducing the likelihood that women are kept out of working in certain sectors of the economy. And 13 economies introduced laws mandating equal remuneration for work of equal value.
Six economies – Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden – now hold perfect scores of 100, meaning they give women and men equal legal rights in the measured areas. A decade ago, no economy could make that claim. Under this index, economies that conducted reforms experienced bigger increases in the percentage of women working overall, leading to women’s economic empowerment.
Despite these efforts, women in many parts of the world still face discriminatory laws and regulations at every point in their working life. Fifty-six countries – spanning all regions and income levels – enacted no reforms at all to improve women’s equality of opportunity over the ten-year period. The pace of reform was the slowest in the category of managing assets – examining gender differences in property rights.
The study develops new insight into how women’s employment and entrepreneurship are affected by legal discrimination, and in turn how this affects economic outcomes such as women’s participation in the labor market. The new index aims to lay a roadmap for progress over time and identify potential areas where more work is needed, to inspire reforms that benefit gender equality.
East Asia and Pacific had the second highest increase in the index, rising to 70.73 from 64.80 and second highest percentage of economies enacting reforms, with 84 percent. There were 38 reforms in the region. Nine economies in the region reformed in the category of getting married by introducing domestic violence legislation. China, Singapore, and Vietnam were among eight economies of the region that introduced paid paternity leave.
There were 47 reforms in Europe and Central Asia over the ten-year period. Most of these were in the category of getting a pension. Nine economies, including Kazakhstan and Ukraine, are equalizing the ages at which men and women can retire with full pension benefits. The index for the region rose to 84.70 from 80.13, the highest regional average mark outside the advanced Organisation for Economic-Cooperation economies. Bulgaria and Turkey were among the six economies that introduced paid paternity leave.
The index for economies in Latin America and the Caribbean rose to 79.09 from 75.40 over the ten-year period, the second-highest level among emerging and developing economies. Economies of the region put in place 39 reforms over the ten-year period. A number of reforms in the region extended maternity leave. Bolivia, which allows women to get jobs in the same way as men and prohibits sexual harassment in employment posted the second biggest jump in score of any country in the world. Mexico prohibited the dismissal of pregnant workers.
Economies in the Middle East and North Africa enacted 19 reforms. The region had the lowest average global score for gender equality with 47.37, and the lowest increase in regional average score. The category of getting married was a focus of change, as four economies—Algeria, Bahrain, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia—introduced domestic violence laws captured by this indicator. Jordan introduced pension credits for periods of employment interruption due to childcare.
South Asia had the biggest improvement in average regional score, rising to 58.36 from 50, and the highest percentage of reforming economies at 88 percent. Six economies in South Asia reformed in the category of starting a job by introducing laws on workplace sexual harassment, including India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Maldives banned sexual harassment at work and introduced accompanying civil remedies, introduced domestic violence legislation, introduced paid paternity leave and prohibited discrimination by creditors on the basis of gender.
Sub-Saharan Africa had the most reforms of any region with 71 over the past decade. Though this is in part due to the large number of economies in the region, it is also an indication of improvement from the baseline. More than half the reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa were in the areas of starting a job and getting married. Within each of these indicators, the biggest areas of improvement were on laws affecting gender-based violence. Five economies introduced laws on workplace sexual harassment and domestic violence.
Andromeda: A Space-Age Tale. The Antonio Guterres Edition
On July 18, 2020, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivered a memorial lecture in honour of the great South African leader Nelson Mandela. The Secretary-General’s speech was clearly intended as a policy statement and designed to provoke a wide response. Guterres outlined “a new social contract” and “a new global deal” that are to replace the current international and even universal social order.
Inequality as the Principal Problem
Guterres was scathing in his criticism of the current world order, comparing the coronavirus pandemic to “an x-ray, revealing fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built.” The pointed accusatory pathos of his speech would have been better suited to a silver-tongued preacher or a radical youth leader than to a member of the top political elite who has headed the most representative and influential international organization for the past three and a half years. The coronavirus is “exposing fallacies and falsehoods everywhere: the lie that free markets can deliver healthcare for all; the fiction that unpaid care work is not work; the delusion that we live in a post-racist world; the myth that we are all in the same boat.”
The pandemic has set humanity back years, if not decades, plunging the world into its worst recession since World War II. Guterres believes that, as a consequence, entire continents will be doomed to hardships, poverty and even famine. Social and economic inequality is growing at an accelerated pace: the financial assets of the world’s 26 wealthiest people already equal the combined assets of half of the rest of the world. Glaring inequality feeds corruption, provokes financial and economic crises, fuels crime and causes epidemics. The number of risk groups is expanding rapidly and includes refugees, migrants, indigenous peoples and minorities of all kinds that are discriminated against and exploited. Inequality breeds political and religious radicalism, social cataclysms, destructive international conflicts, and civil wars.
The coronavirus pandemic introduces new dimensions to the issue of inequality: rich patients have higher chances of receiving quality COVID-19 treatment, and the Global North is better prepared for the pandemic than the Global South. The long-term economic and social consequences of this upheaval will also differ for individual social, professional, ethnic, and other groups.
What are the roots of inequality in the world? For Antonio Guterres, the answer is very clear: colonialism and patriarchy. The Global North is responsible for the shameful history of colonialism, whereby it established its centuries-long economic and political dominance of the Global South. Even though many decades have passed since the decolonization process concluded, the historical legacy of the colonial era has not been overcome. This legacy makes itself felt on a regular basis as everyday racism, institutional racism, the rise of “white supremacy,” the system of the international division of labour and global trade and the distribution of the rights and responsibilities of individual states within the global political system.
The patriarchal system that we live in today is the result of the traditional “male-dominated culture,” which for millennia has discriminated against and humiliated women. While great strides have been made in women’s rights (just like decolonialization has brought certain successes), it would be premature to say that we have finally resolved the gender issues that haunt our societies. The UN Secretary-General called himself a “proud feminist” and reported that “gender parity” has been achieved in top UN jobs (let us note parenthetically that, in 2016, he took the office that many UN members believed should have rightly gone to a female candidate).
So how will the “New Global Deal” advanced by the UN Secretary-General benefit the world? First of all, it promises to achieve social harmony by overcoming inequality – gender inequality, social inequality, racial inequality and inequality between states and continents. The “New Global Deal” is an instrument for establishing egalitarian humanism, where access to quality education, healthcare, food and water, decent jobs and social security is an integral part of our fundamental human rights and is not determined by an individual’s income or family wealth.
Guterres’s ideal and goal is to create a global community where people of any origin, country, ethnicity, social standing or gender can and should fully realize their potential to the benefit of all humankind. The UN Secretary-General supports the idea of universal medical insurance and universal basic income. In general, the world that looms on the horizon follows the principle, “From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.”
Antonio Guterres and Ivan Yefremov
Reading Antonio Guterres’s speech, I was, for some reason, reminded of the leading Soviet sci-fi author Ivan Yefremov’s famous utopian novel Andromeda: A Space-Age Tale, which depicts a remote communist future. The world of Ivan Yefremov, just like the world of Antonio Guterres, is a world of egalitarian humanism. One’s place of residence, family status, gender and race have absolutely no meaning for Yefremov’s characters. They are all a thing of the distant past. Humankind has successfully overcome the cult of excessive consumption, and basic human needs for education, healthcare, welfare, social status, etc. are guaranteed by birthright.
This world is populated by beautiful, strong, somewhat poster-like people who have virtually no human weaknesses. For them, the meaning of life lies mostly in the arts and sciences and other elevated forms of self-realization. Personally, Yefremov’s utopian society has always seemed somewhat cold and uninviting, but in any case, it is much preferable to the current chaotic state of the global society.
Of course, one cannot suspect Antonio Guterres of directly borrowing Ivan Yefremov’s ideas. I doubt that the Portuguese statesman has ever read Andromeda: A Space-Age Tale or any of the Soviet sci-fi author’s novels, for that matter. Additionally, the concept of a “New Global Deal,” unlike Yefremov’s utopia, is not entirely communist. Guterres’s egalitarian world does have a private sector, but it is radically different from the one we have today.
First, the “New Global Deal” would involve significantly raising taxes for big businesses throughout the world, eliminating financial loopholes that allow large corporations to avoid paying taxes. Second, the private sector would switch its focus from making profits to social responsibility. Guterres is an ardent supporter of restoring the trade union movement in order to balance the relations between labour and capital. On the whole, one gets the impression that the UN Secretary-General sees the Northern European social state as the optimal state model.
How can global social harmony be achieved? Take education, for example. In order to overcome global inequality in education, we need to at least double the spending in this sector in the Global South, to USD 3 trillion annually. Clearly, the South does not have that kind of money, it can only come from the North. But in addition to education, we need to think about healthcare, infrastructure development, the “green economy” and gender inequality, where the South still lags significantly behind the North.
Essentially, the UN Secretary-General is calling for a revolution – if by revolution we mean a historically compressed process of a radical redistribution of economic resources and political power. The “New Global Deal” is focused on transferring resources and power not from the bourgeoisie to the proletariat within individual states, as Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin had suggested, but from the rich North to the poor South. That is, the collective North is the nasty “global bourgeoisie,” while the collective South has the honourable role of the “global proletariat.”
The redistribution of power presupposes the reform of international institutions created mostly by the Global North, including changes to the top management of the United Nations, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund. The redistribution of resources means restructuring the international debt accumulated by the Global South, writing them off at least partially, increasing financial aid programmes for developing states and changing the terms of global trade so that the South will gradually move up global value chains.
Just like the classics of Marxism-Leninism idealized the proletariat and demonized the bourgeoisie, the UN Secretary-General idealizes the South and demonizes the North. Appealing in 2020 to the dark colonial legacy as the principal cause of the backwardness of developing states is only slightly more convincing than explaining the current archaic nature of Russian politics by the pernicious legacy of serfdom. The experience of post-colonial development is too variegated for such generalizations. For instance, South Korea experienced decades of extremely harsh Japanese colonial rule, and then the totally destructive war of 1950–1953. Nevertheless, almost no one would call South Korea a backward state today, or a victim of its colonial past.
Antonio Guterres has brought his many years of experience as a European social democrat to the activities of the United Nations. This experience certainly remains relevant today. However, the attempts of European social democrats over the years to resolve gender, social or global problems by mechanically redistributing resources have repeatedly demonstrated their limitations. It is no coincidence that European social democracy today is going through a clear identity crisis. To prepare the next edition of Andromeda: A Space-Age Tale, the UN Secretary-General should find a co-author with a radically different experience, someone like Elon Musk.
From our partner RIAC
Life and travel in a new normality
Weary of the COVID-19 epidemic and feeling the pinch of significant financial losses during the months of the coronavirus crisis, the world is in a hurry to open borders, restart air traffic and resume tourist travel without even waiting for the pandemic to fizzle out. Simultaneously, many countries are doubling down on developing and testing vaccines and drugs against this dangerous scourge. Many heads of state hope that once this pandemic is over, everything will return to normal. Will it really? Will we have to live in a changed reality?
… Many scientists, physicians, experts and politicians around the world are trying to find answers to these questions. Many researchers believe that international tourism, which until recently had been on the rise, was among the economic sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. It is no secret that many small, and not so small countries now live off inbound tourism. According to experts, this year the tour industry as a whole may lose up to $3.3 trillion and a huge number of jobs. Small wonder, therefore, that after three months of isolation and border closures, the industry just can’t wait to get back into business and make up for the lost time. It is against this backdrop that the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is publishing new data about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on this popular sector.
UNWTO analysts emphasize the need for responsibility, safety and protection of tourists when travel restrictions are lifted, and reiterate the need for a strong commitment to supporting tourism as an important driver of a global economic recovery.
While in some parts of the world, above all in Europe and America, tourism, domestic as well as international, is now resuming, many travel restrictions still remain. Fully aware of this, the UNWTO has reiterated its call on governments and international organizations to support tourism, a lifeline for millions and the backbone of the economy. Measures being implemented to this effect by governments include a gradual lifting of restrictions, creation of tourist corridors, resumption of some international flights, and improvement of safety and hygiene protocols.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) is urging tour industries around the globe to mandate the use of face masks as protection against the spread of the COVID-19 infection. Moreover, such safety measures will have to be applied for quite some time. In addition, the WTTC recently released new guidelines for safe and hassle-free travel, including testing and monitoring, frequent hand washing, the use of hand sanitizers, social distancing and more.
Responsible Travel Guidelines have been developed for the entire global travel and tourism sector focusing on measures to safely steer business to car rental companies, airports, tour operators, sightseeing attractions, etc.
European media, meanwhile, continues to report paradoxical cases in the countries of Ibero-America. For example, Spanish newspapers write about Barcelona’s historic Liceu Opera opening for its first concert after months of lockdown. However, instead of playing to an audience filled with art-loving VIPs, the UceLi string quartet serenaded a leafy audience of 2,292 plants. The “Concert for the Bio-Public” conceived by conceptual artist Eugenio Ampudia marked the theater’s reopening to the public after Spain ended its state of emergency in June. The well-educated, albeit disturbingly silent audience, that featured a variety of plants, including fig trees and palms, brought in by local nurseries, enjoyed the performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Crisantemi before being handed over tolocal health workers “in recognition of their dedication to the pandemic.” The concert was broadcast live on the theater’s website.
Recent polls in Spain show that more than 65 percent of the country’s citizens will spend their vacations at home. According to a survey conducted by the Spanish government’s Center for Sociological Research, most Spaniards are not going on vacation this summer, and only one in ten plans to go abroad. After the coronavirus pandemic, 65.7 percent of respondents said they ruled out going on vacation, and seven percent were undecided. Of the meager 27.2 percent who intend to go on vacation, over 90 percent will opt for domestic destinations, and only six percent would like to go abroad. Spain, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic with more than 28,000 deaths, is opening its borders to almost everyone in the European Union.
However, representatives of Spain’s tour business, which accounts for 12 percent of the country’s GDP, fear that in the event or a new coronavirus outbreak their clients could become infected or get stranded in a foreign country. Meanwhile, people in some countries already feel the psychological impact of the pandemic, with studies showing that those who survived the quarantine now value their work and personal space more than before. Going to work reflects a certain degree of harmony in one’s life, when someone does not feel alone, left one-on-one with everyday home routine. Not to mention the importance of earning money, of course. As for personal space, people have learned to enjoy being alone, reading a book, writing poems, whatever. Not so when there are several people sharing a small apartment and having to give up some of their habits and hobbies. People get tired of each other. In April-May, many complained about family problems and divorces, but psychologists say that the number of such complaints has been going down and that the need to maintain social distancing has taught people to build personal boundaries – a habit, which in some countries was seriously weakened during the times of collectivism. The modern generation has also learned a lot about viruses and infections, hygiene and sanitation. And, of course, after months of forced self-isolation, many people now prefer to promenade and travel more than they did before.
Experts say that the worldwide slogan “We Will Travel Again” contains not only a promise to return to normal life, but also a commitment to rebuild a sector faced with the need to resist, rethink and adapt to new market demands and make sure that tourists always feel safe wherever they go.
The prominent Spanish tour business expert, journalist and publisher José Carlos de Santiago recently saw “the light at the end of the tunnel.” In an article, published in his magazine Excelencias, referring to the end of the coronavirus pandemic and the resumption of tourism activities in the world, he writes that recent global research gives a reason for cautious optimism, not only in Europe where the pandemic curve begins to go down, and more decisive measures are taken to contain the spread of infection. In the Americas, the Caribbean islands are opening their borders to international tourism: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Montego Bay have courageously reopened to international visitors and North American planes are already landing there in compliance with strict COVID-19 health regulations. New standards include sanitary controls, travelers are checked before flying, the use of digital technologies has been expanded, additional disinfection is done both inside airports and on the planes, payment for tickets and services are made with credit cards and when with cash, then with the mandatory use of face masks. José Carlos de Santiago adds, however, that according to World Tourism Organization experts, the first signs of recovery will not be felt before the last quarter of 2020, and underscores the need to move towards more sustainable tourism in economic, social and environmental aspects. The road to recovery is just beginning, and as the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer, many questions still remain, the journalist concludes.
Caribbean News Digital online newspaper on tourism has published a list of nine major short- and long-term changes that the tour industry will go through in the wake of the new coronavirus pandemic.
Thus, when they reopen, the theme parks, museums and other highlights that usually attract a great number of people will deal with smaller and more controlled crowds. The museums will also try to make sure that visitors feel safe and are properly separated from each other. The requirement for wearing face masks may also remain, and antiviral cleaning will be carried out throughout the day.
Airlines already require that passengers and personnel all wear face masks, refuse to serve food and drinks during flights, and increase the frequency of cleaning. Some are now asking travelers to fill out medical questionnaires, and check passengers’ temperature, but federal authorities are taking additional steps to get this done.
In a recently released guide, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) outlines a list of new regulations. Airports are also changing their modus operandi and may revise some rules for the passengers’ movement in and around the terminals. When travel resumes in many countries, the initial focus will be on domestic tourism. As for international tourism, much depends on the situation with the epidemic in each country. While airlines may believe that they charge passengers for everything, from seat selection to baggage check-in, in fact, deregulation has reduced the cost of one mile of flight, making international travel more affordable than ever before. Some travelers fear, however, that due to the pandemic the airlines may reduce the number of passengers flying overseas, thus jacking up the cost of other international routes.
Since the big problems caused by the COVID-19 epidemic arose in mid-March 2020, there are two main questions that have been dogging the cruise industry: when will ships return to sea with passengers? And what will cruise tourism look like in the future?
One thing is clear: it will take some time before cruise ships return to sea. When they do, they will hardly be as full of passengers as they were before the pandemic struck.
Temperature tests are likely to become routine. The construction of new cruise ships will almost certainly be delayed and travel routes may temporarily change.
Some major cruise operators recently announced that, among other measures, they are going to replace air conditioners on their cruise ships with so-called “medical grade air filters,” introduce contact-free temperature control for passengers and increase the frequency of cleaning all areas.
Temperature control will become mandatory, self-service buffets will close, and the number of seats on tourist buses during coast-side excursions will be reduced. What remains unclear, however, is how many people will be willing to go sailing again, given the number of victims of the virus worldwide and high-profile outbreaks on ships. But cruise ship executives are still optimistic about their prospects for 2021.
A revised cleaning procedure will bring an important change to the vacation rental market, with the coronavirus pandemic having redefined the very notion of cleanliness and health care for tourists. Some experts believe that this new focus on healthy travel will be expanded in the future. Many cafes and restaurants are expected to be closed for economic reasons, and the comeback of domestic and international tourism will certainly play an important role in the reopening of restaurants, especially in big cities and capitals worldwide. The same with hotels, whose success will likewise depend on the quality of their sanitary provisions. Their clients should expect more frequent cleaning, cleaner rooms, hand sanitizers galore and fewer contacts with employees as hotels are encouraging people to check in online and use their cellphones as room keys. Some guidelines instruct room service staff not to enter suites while the occupant is inside, unless expressly invited to do so. All these precautions will undoubtedly spoil the hospitable atmosphere that the hotels promise their guests.
Meanwhile, countries are in a hurry to start restoring domestic and international tourism and improve their relations with the outside world. And while more cautious experts wonder “how are we going to live in a new normality?”, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported a new uptick in coronavirus infections in Europe and a catastrophic situation in the US, Brazil, India and dozens of other countries.
If this process is not stopped, it will once again push the European countries’ health systems “to the brink of the abyss,” the WHO warns. According to Latin American media reports, Argentina’s business sector would welcome the adoption of the National Emergency Tourism Law, which would offer it a wide range of benefits. According to the new law, due to the emergency situation in tourism, within a year from the end of social isolation measures, payment by the government of 50 percent of wages will also cover small and medium-sized tour operators until October this year, they will enjoy nationwide tax deferrals until December 31, 2020, be exempt from paying tax on debits and credits, provided with zero-interest loans for the purchase of medical equipment and technology related to COVID-19. The new legislation will also halve the hotels’ VAT payments by March 2021 (applies only to residents of Argentina) and provide subsidies for tour guides, equivalent to the minimum wage through October 2020…
…The three main problems that the tour industry may face in the future are economic one, a lack of customer confidence and tough competition. All of this creates uncertainty for the end consumer, and this is where communication must come into play and restore consumer trust. In other words, the press, all media outlets are responsible for restoring our life in a new normality. Truthful and objective information is what will help the world community to cope with the pandemic and achieve its goals. “We need lots of accurate information to inspire consumer confidence,” experts say.
How is Russia opening to the world? The ban on the entry of foreign nationals expires on July 31, 2020. The restrictions do not apply to Russian citizens leaving the country: it was officially reported that persons with dual citizenship, a residence permit, as well as holders of special categories of visas (for medical treatment and work), had already been able to leave the country. According to media reports, even Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov does not know when the borders will open for everyone. In a recent media interview, he said that the ministry will be bringing the government up to speed in real time on the epidemiological situation abroad and on exactly which countries are opening to the outside world and how.
… Anyone, who is guided by the saying “God helps him who helps himself,” will certainly take all necessary precautions both in everyday life and while traveling in the new normality. Therefore, we advise our readers to keep in mind the recommendations listed above, which will help avoid many troubles, and maybe even save their lives.
What do experts advise COVID-19 patients to eat? This is the question ordinary people often ask scientists and seasoned nutritionists. Scientists in different countries are researching this issue. In Germany, they recently found that cabbage can be helpful in cases of suspected coronavirus infection. They have also determined that different varieties of cabbage are popular in countries with low death rates from coronavirus. For example, in Germany and South Korea, the number of fatalities from COVID-19 was significantly lower. It is noted that cabbage contains substances that prevent a severe course of the disease. For example, sauerkraut contains antioxidants that enhance the body’s defense against pathogens. Earlier, Spanish nutritionist Alejandro Canovas and head of the Spanish Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery (SEPAR) Eusebi Chiner named products that help protect the lungs from coronavirus. According to Canovas, eggs, whole rice, sea fish and walnuts can help strengthen the respiratory system. Chiner explained that when the lung condition worsens, the body’s need for protein increases. He added that eggs contain fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A and high-quality proteins.
From our partner International Affairs
A better normal must mean tackling workplace violence and harassment
Violence and harassment is a persistent and pernicious issue in the world of work.
It transcends national boundaries, socioeconomic conditions, occupational sectors and working arrangements. It can manifest itself between co-workers, managers and subordinates, or between workers and their clients or the public, threatening the safety and health of all those subjected to it.
Violence and harassment takes different and shifting forms, not just physical or sexual. Psychological harassment, in particular, can be insidious and abusive in the most subtle of ways, and the mental toll it takes can lead at times to suicide.
The negative impact on workers’ well-being also affects businesses, contributing to absences from work and increased staff turnover, related to fear, illness and injury. These changes imply significant costs for enterprises, and can also damage productivity and performance.
During the current public health crisis, violence and harassment has appeared to increase. The unprecedented restrictions imposed on people during the pandemic have exacerbated stress levels. In some cases, this has led to violence and harassment being directed against essential personnel, healthcare workers and others on the pandemic frontlines.
There have been reports of doctors in Wuhan, China, being beaten and threatened in overcrowded hospitals. Essential workers in grocery shops have been subjected to violence and harassment when those stores ran out of supplies. More recently, a security guard in the United States was killed attempting to enforce a policy of wearing face masks in a store.
There has never been a more important time to recognize and address the causes and manifestations of work-related violence and harassment. A new ILO report, Safe and healthy working environments free from violence and harassment, does just that. It examines the scope of violence and harassment in the world of work and looks at existing occupational safety and health frameworks, initiatives and areas of action for preventing and addressing workplace psychosocial risks, including better Occupational Safety and Health management systems and training.
Last year, at the Centenary International Labour Conference, the ILO’s 187 member States adopted the groundbreaking Violence and Harassment Convention (No. 190) and accompanying Recommendation (No. 206). In doing this, they defined a global commitment to eliminating this scourge.
However, such an overarching commitment needs to be backed by grassroots action. Systems, cultures and individuals that perpetuate such harassment or allow it to continue need to be called out and corrected. We all want to build a ‘better normal’, post-COVID. Workplaces free from violence and harassment should be part of that equation.
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