Global leaders discuss coronavirus effect on jobs at UN summit

Dozens of heads of state and government address the International Labour Organization summit via recorded messages.

Guy Ryder ILO
Ryder said COVID-19 had plunged the world of work into 'unprecedented crisis' [Reuters TV]

Global leaders have called for a comprehensive approach to counter the effect of the coronavirus pandemic at a summit by the United Nations labour agency.

Guy Ryder, the chief of the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO), said during Wednesday’s online event, that COVID-19 had plunged the world of work into “unprecedented crisis”.

Dozens of heads of state and government addressed the summit via recorded messages.

Antonio Guterres, the UN chief, told the ILO summit: “Let’s be clear: it’s not a choice between health or jobs and the economy. They are interlinked: we will either win on all fronts or fail on all fronts.”

“Looking ahead, policies should lay the foundation for a low-carbon, resilient recovery that would create millions of jobs while helping address the climate crisis,” said Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

“We are especially concerned that the crisis will jeopardise the important development gains of the last years,” she said.

World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo said keeping markets open to trade would play an important role in fostering the recovery.

“In the short run, raising trade barriers would threaten access to food and medical supplies,” he said.

‘Employment shock’

“The COVID-19 pandemic struck the world like a massive earthquake and just like a tsunami that comes in its aftermath, ’employment shock’ has already hit upon us,” said Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea.

Millions of US jobs lost amid pandemic may never return (2:22)

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said the long-term effect of the pandemic on Africa would be “quite severe”.

“We have an immense task before us: to rebuild our shattered lives and economies,” he said.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of World Health Organization, told the event the world had a special duty to protect the millions of healthcare workers at the front line of the crisis who were suffering increasing cases of infection and death.

“Together we have a duty to protect those who protect us,” he said.

The outlook for the global labour market in the second half of 2020 is “highly uncertain” and the forecast recovery will not be enough for employment to return to pre-pandemic levels this year, the ILO said last week.

The UN agency said the fall in global working hours was “significantly worse than previously estimated” in the first half of the year.

Source: News Agencies