More than half a million people have lost or been pushed out of their jobs in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover, the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Wednesday.
In a warning that the economy has been “paralyzed” since the de facto authorities took control last August, ILO said that there have been huge losses in jobs and working hours.
Women have been hit especially hard.
By the middle of this year, it’s expected that job losses will increase to nearly 700,000 – with direst predictions topping 900,000 – as a result of the crisis in Afghanistan and “restrictions on women’s participation in the workplace”.
Women’s employment levels are already extremely low by global standards, but ILO said that they are estimated to have decreased by 16 per cent in the third quarter of 2021, and they could fall by between 21 per cent and 28 per cent by mid-2022.
“The situation in Afghanistan is critical and immediate support for stabilization and recovery is required,” said Ramin Behzad, Senior Coordinator of the International Labour Organization (ILO) for Afghanistan. “While the priority is to meet immediate humanitarian needs, lasting and inclusive recovery will depend on people and communities having access to decent employment, livelihoods and basic services.”
Hundreds of thousands of job losses have been seen in several key sectors which have been “devastated” since the takeover, ILO said.
These include agriculture and the civil service, where workers have either been let go or left unpaid. In construction, the sector’s 538,000 workers – of which 99 per cent are men – have suffered too, as major infrastructure projects have stalled.
The Taliban takeover has also led to “hundreds of thousands” of Afghan security force members losing their job, said ILO, noting that teachers and health workers have been deeply impacted by the lack of cash in the economy, amid falling international donor support.
As the crisis continues to unfold, ILO explained that the Taliban capture of Kabul on 15 August, threatened hard-fought development gains achieved over the past two decades.
Domestic markets have been “widely disrupted”, the UN agency said, while productive economic activity has dropped, which has in turn driven up production costs.
At the same time, because Afghanistan’s reported $9.5 billion in assets have been frozen, “foreign aid, trade and investment…have been severely impacted”, ILO continued, pointing to cash shortages and restrictions on bank withdrawals, causing misery for businesses, workers and households.
Kids pay price
The lack of work also threatens to worsen child labour levels in Afghanistan, where only 40 per cent of children aged five to 17 years old attend school.
In absolute numbers, ILO noted that there are more than 770,000 boys and about 300,000 girls involved in child labour.
The problem is worst in rural areas – where 9.9 per cent, or 839,000 children – are much more likely to be in child labour compared to those in urban areas (2.9 per cent or 80,000).
To support the Afghan people this year, the UN’s top priorities are to provide lifesaving assistance, sustain essential services and preserve social investments and community-level systems which are essential to meeting basic human needs.
In support of this strategy, the ILO has pledged to work with employers and trade unions to promote productive employment and decent work.
The organisation’s focus is in four key areas: emergency employment services, employment-intensive investment, enterprise promotion and skills development, while respecting labour rights, gender equality, social dialogue, social protection,elimination of child labour and disability inclusion.
New Economic Corridor Project to Boost Regional Trade and Growth through Lao PDR
The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved the $132 million Southeast Asia Regional Economic Corridor and Connectivity Project, which will improve climate resilient transport connectivity and regional trade along an east-west corridor through northern Lao PDR.
Designed to complement the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Master Plan on Connectivity, the new project will upgrade Lao National Road 2, which runs from east to west, connecting Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, thus building a “horizontal” corridor that links with existing north-south routes in mainland Southeast Asia. Other activities include the development of dry ports, marketplaces, trucking terminals, and locations where farmers can bring their produce for transport to national and foreign markets. The upgraded road’s design will protect it from the storms, floods and landslides which are becoming more frequent because of climate change.
“It is vital that local people and communities have the chance to access large-scale transport investments and use them for their own economic benefit,” said Alex Kremer, World Bank Lao PDR Country Manager. “The Regional Economic Corridor project will not only upgrade a key regional road, but will also help people produce goods and access markets.”
National Road 2 is a section of Asian Highway 13 and runs for almost 300 km from the Thai border at Huai Kone-Nam Ngeun to the Vietnamese border at Panghok-Tay Trang. It bisects the new Laos-China railway in Oudomxay province, creating the potential for transport connectivity between China, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. The project will improve and widen sections of the road to meet Asian highway standards, making the road safer and climate resilient.
A similar approach will be used to upgrade connecting local roads in the provinces of Luang Namtha, Luang Prabang, Oudomxay, Phongsaly, and Xayaboury. At the same time, separate project components will focus on improving border crossing facilities — including digitization of cross-border business processes for border clearance efficiency, and strengthening institutional capacity and regulatory frameworks for agricultural trade, transport, and investment planning at national and provincial levels.
A major aim of the project is improving the ability of local smallholders to produce goods that can be traded via the new transport networks and so take advantage of regional connections. At the same time, project teams will tour communities living along project roads to give information campaigns on human trafficking; communicable diseases; road safety; and sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment.
The project, will be implemented by the Lao Ministry of Public Works and Transport, with support from provincial administrations and the Ministries of Finance, Agriculture and Forestry, and Investment and Commerce. Australia is to provide 10 million Australian dollars of parallel financing. The project is expected to be completed in May 2028.
World Bank Announces Planned Actions for Global Food Crisis Response
The World Bank today announced actions it plans to take as part of a comprehensive, global response to the ongoing food security crisis, with up to $30 billion in existing and new projects in areas such as agriculture, nutrition, social protection, water and irrigation. This financing will include efforts to encourage food and fertilizer production, enhance food systems, facilitate greater trade, and support vulnerable households and producers.
“Food price increases are having devastating effects on the poorest and most vulnerable,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “To inform and stabilize markets, it is critical that countries make clear statements now of future output increases in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Countries should make concerted efforts to increase the supply of energy and fertilizer, help farmers increase plantings and crop yields, and remove policies that block exports and imports, divert food to biofuel, or encourage unnecessary storage.”
The World Bank is working with countries on the preparation of $12 billion of new projects for the next 15 months to respond to the food security crisis. These projects are expected to support agriculture, social protection to cushion the effects of higher food prices, and water and irrigation projects, with the majority of resources going to Africa and the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and South Asia. In addition, the World Bank’s existing portfolio includes undisbursed balances of $18.7 billion in projects with direct links to food and nutrition security issues, covering agriculture and natural resources, nutrition, social protection, and other sectors. Altogether, this would amount to over $30 billion available for implementation to address food insecurity over the next 15 months. This response will draw on the full range of Bank financing instruments and be complemented by analytical work.
The World Bank Group’s global response will address four priorities:
- Support production and producers: Take actions to enhance next season’s production by removing input trade barriers, focusing on more efficient use of fertilizers, and repurposing public policies and expenditures to better support farmers and output.
- Facilitate increased trade: Build international consensus (G7, G20, others) and commitment to avoid export restrictions that increase global food prices and import restrictions that discourage production in developing countries.
- Support vulnerable households: Scale up targeted, nutrition-sensitive social protection programs and replenish early-response financing mechanisms.
- Invest in sustainable food and nutrition security: Strengthen food systems to make them more resilient to rising risks (conflict, climate, pests, diseases), trade disruptions and economic shocks – balance immediate/short-term needs with long-term investments.
The World Bank gained extensive experience in response to the 2007-2008 global food price crisis through the temporary Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP) that received donor contributions and channeled funds to 49 affected countries through 100 projects. Since then, the Bank had built up new tools dedicated to responding to food security crises, including the IDA Crisis Response Window. The World Bank also hosts the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), which is an existing financial intermediary fund dedicated to improving food security in low-income countries and could be replenished to help fund the response to the current global food crisis.
Effective Policy Implementation is Crucial for Vietnam to Reach High-Income Status by 2045
For Vietnam to realize its aspiration for reaching high income status by 2045, it will need to shift its economic growth model and sharply improve the government’s capacity to coordinate and implement economic policy reforms and public investments, a World Bank Group report says.
The World Bank Group’s Systematic Country Diagnostic Update, “How Will Vietnam Blossom? Reforming Institutions for Effective Implementation”, emphasizes that Vietnam traditional growth model faces major challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, slowing globalization, and the country’s increasing vulnerability to external shocks, especially climate risks. After identifying a series of policy responses and reform priorities, many of which are not new, the report argues that adapting institutions will be the key to success.
“Vietnam’s GDP per capita has increased fivefold over the past three decades, while its institutions have not adapted at the same speed since the Doi Moi of the late 1980s,” said World Bank Country Director for Vietnam Carolyn Turk. “A series of institutional reforms can help the country avoid the middle-income trap by increasing its efficiency to respond to new and complex global and domestic challenges.”
Vietnam has implemented its development priorities unevenly over the past 35 years. It has exceeded expectations in trade openness and social inclusion but lagged considerably in promoting green growth and upgrading national core infrastructure. Such variability is explained by its institutions that have not been always well prepared to address increasingly complex, often cross-cutting development priorities, or to facilitate the transition to a higher-income society. Adapting and modernizing existing institutions is a key priority of the socio-economic development strategy adopted by the Party Congress in February 2021.
Improving Vietnam’s implementation performance will require five institutional reforms, the report says. Vietnam will need to create a solid institutional anchor that will transform development priorities into concrete actions; streamline administrative processes to increase the effectiveness of government at all levels; use market-based instruments to motivate public and private stakeholders; enforce rules and regulations to enhance motivation, trust, and fairness; and engage in participatory processes to secure greater transparency and accountability.
Thanks to these series of five institutional reforms, Vietnam already transformed itself from one of the most closed economies in the world to one of the most open economies during the 1990s and 2000s. But the road from lower middle income to high income will be far more challenging. By adopting these institutional reforms more systematically, Vietnam will underpin its vision for economic development, strengthen its capacity to implement national strategies, and boost its motivation to produce results in several key areas – green growth, digital transformation, financial inclusion, social protection and infrastructure upgrading – that will help it achieve its development goals.
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