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As jobs crisis deepens, ILO warns of uncertain and incomplete labour market recovery

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The number of working hours lost across the world in the first half of 2020 was significantly worse than previously estimated, while the highly uncertain recovery in the second half of the year will not be enough to go back to pre-pandemic levels, even in the best scenario, and risks seeing continuing large scale job losses, warns the International Labour Organization (ILO).

According to the ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work: 5th Edition , there was a 14 per cent drop in global working hours during the second quarter of 2020, equivalent to the loss of 400 million full-time jobs (based on a 48-hour working week). This is a sharp increase on the previous Monitor’s estimate  (issued on May 27), of a 10.7 per cent drop (305 million jobs).

The new figures reflect the worsening situation in many regions over the past weeks, especially in developing economies. Regionally, working time losses for the second quarter were: Americas (18.3 per cent), Europe and Central Asia (13.9 per cent), Asia and the Pacific (13.5 per cent), Arab States (13.2 per cent), and Africa (12.1 per cent).

The vast majority of the world’s workers (93 per cent) continue to live in countries with some sort of workplace closures, with the Americas experiencing the greatest restrictions.

Second half of 2020

The new Monitor presents three scenarios for recovery in the second half of 2020: baseline, pessimistic and optimistic. It stresses that the long-term outcome will depend on the future trajectory of the pandemic and government policy choices.

The baseline model – which assumes a rebound in economic activity in line with existing forecasts, the lifting of workplace restrictions and a recovery in consumption and investment – projects a decrease in working hours of 4.9 per cent (equivalent to 140 million full-time jobs) compared to Q4 2019.

The pessimistic scenario assumes a second pandemic wave and the return of restrictions that would significantly slow recovery. The consequence would be a fall in working hours of 11.9 per cent (340 million full-time jobs).

The optimistic scenario assumes that workers’ activities resume quickly, significantly boosting aggregate demand and job creation. With this exceptionally fast recovery, the global loss of working hours would fall to 1.2 per cent (34 million full-time jobs).

Impact on women

The Monitor also finds that women workers have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, creating a risk that some of the modest progress on gender equality made in recent decades will be lost, and that work-related gender inequalities will be exacerbated.

The severe impact of COVID-19 on women workers relates to their over-representation in some of the economic sectors worst affected by the crisis, such as accommodation, food, sales and manufacturing. Globally, almost 510 million or 40 per cent of all employed women work in the four most affected sectors, compared to 36.6 per cent of men.

Women also dominate in the domestic work and health and social care work sectors, where they are at greater risk of losing their income and of infection and transmission, and are also less likely to have social protection. The pre-pandemic unequal distribution of unpaid care work has also worsened during the crisis, exacerbated by the closure of schools and care services.

Key challenges ahead

While countries have adopted policy measures with unprecedented speed and scope, the Monitor highlights some key challenges ahead:

  • Finding the right balance and sequencing of health, economic and social and policy interventions to produce optimal sustainable labour market outcomes.
  • Implementing and sustaining policy interventions at the necessary scale when resources are likely to be increasingly constrained.
  • Protecting and promoting the conditions of vulnerable, disadvantaged and hard-hit groups to make labour markets fairer and more equitable.
  • Securing international solidarity and support, especially for emerging and developing countries.
  • Strengthening social dialogue and respect for rights.

“The decisions we adopt now will echo in the years to come and beyond 2030. Although countries are at different stages of the pandemic and a lot has been done, we need to redouble our efforts if we want to come out of this crisis in a better shape than when it started,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

“Next week the ILO is convening a high-level, virtual, Global Summit on COVID-19 and the World of Work . I hope that governments, workers and employers will use this opportunity to present and listen to innovative ideas, discuss lessons learned and come up with concrete plans to work together to implement a recovery that is job-rich, inclusive, equitable and sustainable. We must all step up to the challenge of building a better future of work,” he concluded.

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Environment

Greenpeace Africa reacts to DRC President’s decision to suspend illegal logging concessions

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The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Félix Tshisekedi, ordered on Friday, October 15th, the suspension of all dubious logging concessions, including the 6 granted in September 2020. Greenpeace Africa, one of the civil society organizations that denounced these concessions, applauds the decision taken by the Head of State and encourages him to remain vigilant and ensure its effective execution by Deputy Prime Minister Ms. Eve Bazaiba.

Greenpeace Africa reiterates its call for maintaining the moratorium on new industrial logging concessions to prevent a human rights and climate catastrophe. This logging sector, characterized by bad governance, favors corruption and remains out of touch with the socio-economic needs of the Congolese people and the climate crisis we live in.

Irène Wabiwa Betoko, Head of the International Congo Basin Forest Project of Greenpeace: “The decision of H.E. President Tshisekedi against the illegal actions of former Minister Nyamugabo sends an important message to the Congolese people and their government. It is also a red light for the plans of Ms. Ève Bazaiba, current Minister of the Environment, to open a highway to deforestation by multinational logging companies through lifting the moratorium on new industrial concessions.”

The President asks to “Suspend all questionable contracts pending the outcome of an audit and report them to the government at the next cabinet meeting.” Greenpeace Africa maintains that the review of illegalities in the forest sector must be transparent, independent, and open to comments from civil society organizations.

Ms. Wabiwa adds that “Both the protection of the rights of Congolese peoples and the success of COP26 require that the moratorium on granting new forest titles be strengthened. We again call on President Tshisekedi to strengthen the 2005 presidential decree to extend the moratorium.”

Ms. Wabiwa concludes that “instead of allowing new avenues of destruction, the DRC needs a permanent forest protection plan, taking into account the management by the local and indigenous populations who live there and depend on them for their survival.”

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Tech News

Standards & Digital Transformation – Good Governance in a Digital Age

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In celebration of World Standards Day 2021, celebrated on 14 October every year, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is pleased to announce the launch of a brochure, “Standards and Digital Transformation: Good Governance in the Digital Age”.

In the spirit of this year’s World Standards Day theme “Shared Vision for a Better World”, the brochure provides insights into the key drivers of the digital transformation and its implications for sustainable development, particularly people, prosperity and planet. Noting the rapid pace of change of the digital transformation, with the COVID-19 pandemic serving as an unanticipated accelerator, the brochure highlights the role of standards in digital transformation governance. It further considers the principles necessary for guiding the collaborative development of standards in the digital technology landscape to ensure that the technologies remain human-centered and aligned to the goals of sustainability.

This year’s World Standards Day theme highlights the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) representing a shared vision for peace and prosperity, for people and planet. Every SDG is a call for action, but we can only get there if we work together, and international standards offer practical solutions we can all stand behind.

This brochure is a summary of a publication set to be released in November 2021.

Download it here.

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Human Rights

UN: Paraguay violated indigenous rights

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An indigenous community in Paraguay wait to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. WHO/PAHO

Paraguay’s failure to prevent the toxic contamination of indigenous people’s traditional lands by commercial farming violates their rights and their sense of “home”, the UN Human Rights Committee said in a landmark ruling on Wednesday. 

The Committee, which is made up of 18 independent experts from across the world, monitors countries’ adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  

Lands represent ‘home’ 

The decision on Paraguay (in Spanish) marked the first time it has affirmed that for indigenous people, “home” should be understood in the context of their special relationship with their territories, including their livestock, crops and way of life.  

“For indigenous peoples, their lands represent their home, culture and community. Serious environmental damages have severe impacts on indigenous people’s family life, tradition, identity and even lead to the disappearance of their community. It dramatically harms the existence of the culture of the group as a whole,” said Committee member Hélène Tigroudja. 

The decision stems from a complaint filed more than a decade ago on behalf of some 201 Ava Guarani people of the Campo Agua’e indigenous community, located in Curuguaty district in eastern Paraguay. 

The area where they live is surrounded by large commercial farms which produce genetically modified soybeans through fumigation, a process which involves the use of banned pesticides. 

Traditional life affected 

Fumigation occurred continuously for more than 10 years and affected the indigenous community’s whole way of life, including killing livestock, contaminating waterways and harming people’s health. 

The damage also had severe intangible repercussions, according to the UN committee.  The disappearance of natural resources needed for hunting, fishing and foraging resulted in the loss of traditional knowledge.  For example, ceremonial baptisms no longer take place as necessary materials no longer exist. 

“By halting such ceremonies, children are denied a rite crucial to strengthening their cultural identity,” the Committee said.  “Most alarmingly, the indigenous community structure is being eroded and disintegrated as families are forced to leave their land.” 

Toxic exposure 

The indigenous community brought the case to the Human Rights Committee after a lengthy and unsatisfactory administrative and judicial process in Paraguay’s courts. 

“More than 12 years after the victims filed their criminal complaint regarding the fumigation with toxic agrochemicals, to which they have continued to be exposed throughout this period, the investigations have not progressed in any meaningful way and the State party has not justified the delay,” the Committee said in its decision. 

Recommendations, reparations 

Members found Paraguay did not adequately monitor the fumigation and failed to prevent contamination, adding “this failure in its duty to provide protection made it possible for the large-scale, illegal fumigation to continue for many years, destroying all components of the indigenous people’s family life and home.”  

The Committee recommended that Paraguay complete the criminal and administrative proceedings against all parties responsible and make full reparation to the victims. 

The authorities are also urged to take all necessary measures, in close consultation with the indigenous community, to repair the environmental damage, and to work to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future. 

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