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COVID-19: UN chief calls for actions to ensure even global recovery, prevent future crises

by Haruna Gimba

By Zayamu Hassan

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, has called for accelerated action on jobs and social protection to avoid an uneven global recovery and prevent future crises

He made the assertion in a policy brief, recently, insisting that investing in job-rich growth, social protection and a just transition to a net-zero emissions future, particularly in low -and middle-income countries.

Guterres stated that could prevent a further deepening of the inequalities between developed and developing economies that have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to him, at least US$982 billion in fiscal stimulus measures is needed to respond to the immediate labour market shocks of the crisis and to support a just transition, as well as US$ 1.2 trillion annually for social protection floors in low- and middle-income countries.

He argued that no advanced economy has achieved economic and social progress without investing in social protection systems and quality public services that provide people with the necessary support to navigate the vicissitudes of their lives.

While the wealth of billionaires increased by over US$ 3.9 trillion between March and December 2020, the impact of the pandemic on the world of work, among other factors, increased the number of extremely poor by between 119 and 224 million people—the first increase in poverty in over 21 years.

An estimated 8.8 per cent of total working hours – equivalent to the hours worked in one year by 255 million full-time workers – were lost in 2020.

This, according to him, corresponds to a loss of US$3.3 trillion in labour income before government support.

Because of the pandemic, there are an estimated 75 million fewer jobs in 2021 than there were before the crisis, and 23 million fewer projected in 2022.

In the policy brief, the UN chief called for urgent investments in a job-rich, sustainable and socially inclusive recovery.

The public and private sectors, the brief said, should leverage finance to significantly ramp up such investments to get the world back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to address ever increasing risks from climate change and environmental degradation that could jeopardize 1.2 billion jobs—equivalent to 40 percent of the global labour force.

The Secretary-General, therefore, called for a Global Accelerator for Jobs and Social Protection that would create at least 400 million jobs and extend social protection to four billion women, men and children currently without coverage.

The brief also recommended the expansion of investment in Social Protection Floors as a percentage of GDP in national budgets; design policy measures to extend social protection to workers in the informal economy, and to foster the progressive formalization of enterprises and employment, including in the care economy and create active labour market policies to help workers upskill and re-skill to keep or change their job, adapt to the green and digital transitions.

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