COVID-19 – PLIGHT OF LABOUR
Laborers approach is not a political approach. The right way of Labor approach is for Nations development. Every State shall understand the suffering of Labor in the current situation and there by strive to promote and protect the interest of labor. To this extent even a small hand from the government to do favor for improve the conditions of labor by recognizing international labor standards are enough to reconstruct the society as if it had been prior to the pandemic. As everyone knows that the COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the world with unprecedented speed, impacting over 215 countries and territories and resulting in around one-third of the world’s population being in lockdown. Many Countries include India decided to fight with this unknown enemy by declaring lockdown. Despite the fact, that the result of lockdown will break spreading of the pandemic, on the other hand it has a severe impact on nations’ economy. Certain organizations which are based on Information Technology are continuing their functioning from home without having much impact on their work but it has a worst impact on certain sectors. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated in terms of intensity and expanded its global reach. Full or partial lockdown measures are now affecting almost 2.7 billion workers, representing around 81 per cent of the world’s workforce. In the current situation, businesses across a range of economic sectors are facing catastrophic losses, which threaten their operations and solvency, especially among smaller enterprises, while millions of workers are vulnerable to income loss and layoffs. The impact on income-generating activities is especially harsh for unprotected workers and the most vulnerable groups in the informal economy. Through the massive economic disruption, the COVID-19 crisis is affecting the world’s workforce of 3.3 billion. Sharp and unforeseen reductions in economic activity are causing a dramatic decline in employment, both in terms of numbers of jobs and aggregate hours of work. Economic activity across whole sectors has been severely curtailed in many countries, leading to steep declines in revenue streams for many businesses. With increasing numbers of partial or total lockdowns in place that restrict operations of business and movement of the vast majority of workers, for many it has become impossible to work.
Many places in the world documented with gigantic losses in working hours, which is in turn effects on termination of employment. The pandemic especially impacts of sectors which generate a large number of jobs, such as commerce and the service industry. The International Labor Organization Monitor describes “the pandemic as the worst crisis since World War II, which is causing a rise in unemployment and job insecurity”. The new ILO report highlights that these sectors employ many people in low-paid, low-skilled jobs, where an unforeseen loss of income has devastating consequences. It says that countries with high levels of informality face additional challenges, both health and economic, including the lack of social security coverage.
PANDEMIC AND ITS CONSEQUENCES ON LABOUR MARKET:
This crisis is entirely differ from earlier economic situations which faced by the world. The impact of lockdowns to mitigate the pandemic vastly outmoded initial trade shocks and travel restrictions that had significant but limited sectoral impacts. Non-essential services and production experienced immediate impact from lockdowns, including reduced hours worked and job losses. Without support, viable businesses risk bankruptcy. Economies with greater dependence on the service sector, higher levels of informality and weak restrictions on layoffs experience much higher initial job losses.
The crisis has differentiated impacts on enterprises, workers and their families, deepening already existing differences. Special attention needs to be given to the following groups:
- Women, who account for 70 per cent of jobs in the health and care sector, are often in the frontline of the crisis, and are also over-represented in the informal service sectors and in labour-intensive manufacturing sectors;
- Informal economy workers, casual and temporary workers, workers in new forms of employment, including those in the gig economy;
- Young workers whose employment prospects are more sensitive to demand fluctuations ;
- Older workers who even in normal times have difficulties to find decent work opportunities and now carry an additional health risk;
- Refugees and migrant workers , especially those working as domestic workers, in construction, manufacturing and agriculture sectors.
- Micro-entrepreneurs and the self-employed, particularly those in the informal economy, who could be disproportionately affected and are less resilient.
Since longtime, income inequality exists has risen steeply due to adverse social and economic consequences. At present, this pandemic raises inequalities from catching the virus to staying alive, to coping with its dramatic economic consequences. It has a serious impact on migrant workers and workers in the informal economy are particularly affected by the economic consequences. Gig economy, insecurity to jobs; informality makes it more difficult to contain the virus. According to the reports, as many as 1, 100 migrant workers came out on Mumbai roads and Odisha wanting to return home. Similar protests were seen taking place in other parts of India, where the workers sought permission to go back to their respective villages. The stranded workers in Punjab, Telangana, Haryana and Odisha, had reportedly said that they would start walking back home shortly as the ration they have received is about to be exhausted and they do not have any money left to meet their daily challenges. Lacking jobs and money, and with public transportation shut down, hundreds of thousands of migrants were forced to walk hundreds of miles back to their home villages – with some dying during the journey. The central government imposed the lockdown and closed businesses when India reached around 500 cases of Covid-19. Local authorities followed with measures such as creating strict containment zones to close off hotspots, which left millions of migrant workers stranded. The country’s rapid response slowed down the spread of the disease, but also raised concerns about exacerbating existing inequalities and vulnerabilities. The shameful death of a twelve year old tribal girl, Jamla Makhdam due to exhaustion, as she walked for three days to her home state Chhattisgarh has thrown some light on the multitude of deprivation that the migrant agricultural workers have to suffer. Jamla had migrated to Telangana state as an agricultural worker to harvest chillies along with others from her village. Child labour continues as a result of the abject poverty of the families and communities they belong to, as well as the caste ridden vision of policy makers. 16 migrant workers were crushed to death by a goods train when they were attempting to make their way to Aurangabad railway station with the hope of catching a train to their homes in Madhya Pradesh. They were walking along the railway track to avoid being thrashed by the police on the roads and with the knowledge that trains aren’t running. After walking for several hours, the workers were exhausted. They sat down to rest and fell asleep. An oncoming goods train ran over them at around 5.20 am. Plight of Migrant Workers is very pitiable and its shows how Government — either State or Central is Concerned about their vulnerability.
The greater impact of the crisis on workers and micro-enterprises already in vulnerable positions in the labour market risks exacerbates working poverty and existing inequalities. Moreover, this crisis can potentially ignite or deepen grievances, mistrust and sense of injustice over access to health services as well as to decent jobs and livelihoods, and drive social tensions that could undermine development, peace and social cohesion. Supported by the international community, countries need to act swiftly to support the economy, and protect jobs and incomes taking into account the specific risks of certain groups.
FOUR-PILLAR POLICY FRAMEWORK – AN INTERNATIONAL LABOUR STANDARD:
The ILO has structured certain key policies to the State parties to meet the present challenges and protect and honour Labourer’s rights through four pillars policy. The ILO policies promote International labour standards provide to meet the current challenges by all member States for its sustainable and equitable development. The Four Pillars Policy rests upon the following elements such as —-
Firstly, respecting key provisions of ILS relating to safety and health, working arrangements, protection of specific categories of workers, non-discrimination, social security or employment protection is the guarantee that workers, employers and government maintain decent work while adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secondly, a wide range of ILO labour standards on employment, social protection, wage protection, SMEs promotion or workplace cooperation contain specific guidance on policy measures that would encourage a human-centred approach to the crisis and to its recovery. Their guidance extends to the specific situation of certain categories of workers, such as nursing personnel, domestic workers, migrant workers, seafarers or fishers, who we know are extremely vulnerable in the current context.
Labour Standards are a decent work compass in the context of the crisis response to the COVID-19 outbreak Respect for international labour standards further contributes to a culture of social dialogue and workplace cooperation is the key in building the recovery and preventing a downward spiral in employment and labour conditions during and after the crisis.
Figure: Policy framework: Four key pillars to fight Covid-19 based on International Labour Standards
Stimulating the economy and employment
Supporting entreprises, jobs and incomes
Protecting workers in the workplace
Relying on social dialogue for solutions
Some policy actions, such as social protection, not only support jobs and incomes (Pillar 2 ) but also protect workers in the workplace (Pillar 3) . Hence, State’s initiatives and strategies shall develop policies in each pillar, based on the available resources taking the cross-cutting dimension into consideration.
Hence, States have more obligations to take certain measures to preserve jobs, promote businesses and protect incomes to triumph over this intensive care situation. State’s Policy matters shall ensure to support reaches the workers and enterprises that need it most, including low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the self-employed and the many other vulnerable people.
 Asst.Professor, Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Viskahapatam, Andhra Pradesh, India, [email protected]
 ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work. Second edition ; https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/briefingnote/wcms_740877.pdf
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