Job losses "catastrophe" estimated to cost $8.9 trillion tala

The Director General of the International Labour Organisation (I.L.O.), Guy Ryder, has warned that job losses as a result of the COVID19 pandemic will be a “catastrophe for millions of families” – including many in Samoa.

The caution comes after I.L.O. estimated that some 25 million people would lose jobs, with the United Nations agency valuing the loss of income at US$3.4 trillion (T$8.90trillion.)

In an opinion piece submitted for publication in the Samoa Observer, Mr. Ryder called on government leaders to help the “most vulnerable among us” cautioning that the virus would “amplify cycles of poverty and inequality.”

As of Thursday afternoon, 21,283 people have died from 471,035 cases of coronavirus around the world. Samoa so far has had 22 suspected cases.

In response, the Government has enforced a lockdown under a State of Emergency where most businesses were required by law to close at 4pm.

The tourism and hospitality has been badly hit. Restaurants, bars and most places where people would congregate have been closed. Some hotels around the country have also been closed as owners are forced to make tough decisions given the lack of guests.

It was not possible to get an idea from the relevant authorities on the impact of COVID19 on the local job market, and the potential loss of workers income.

But Mr. Ryder called on governments to immediately deliver help to those most in need to avoid another episode of the 1930s recession.

“This pandemic has mercilessly exposed the deep faultlines in our labour markets,” Mr. Ryder said.

“Enterprises of all sizes have already stopped operations, cut working hours and laid off staff. Many are teetering on the brink of collapse as shops and restaurants close, flights and hotel bookings are cancelled, and businesses shift to remote working.

“Often the first to lose their jobs are those whose employment was already precarious - sales clerks, waiters, kitchen staff, baggage handlers and cleaners.”

But there is a chance to turn things around.

“We have a chance to save millions of jobs and enterprises, if governments act decisively to ensure business continuity, prevent layoffs and protect vulnerable workers,” Mr. Ryder said.

“Unprecedented, expansionary fiscal and monetary policies are essential to prevent the current headlong downturn from becoming a prolonged recession. We must make sure that people have enough money in their pockets to make it to the end of the week – and the next.”

The governments have also been urged to ensure enterprises are kept in operation to ensure the economy is stimulated.

“In a world where only one in five people are eligible for unemployment benefits, layoffs spell catastrophe for millions of families. Because paid sick leave is not available to many carers and delivery workers - those we all now rely on – they are often under pressure to continue working even if they are ill.

“In the developing world, piece-rate workers, day labourers and informal traders may be similarly pressured by the need to put food on the table. We will all suffer because of this. It will not only increase the spread of the virus but in the longer-term dramatically amplify cycles of poverty and inequality.”

Read Mr. Ryder’s opinion piece on page 14 of the Friday, March 27, 2020 edition of the Samoa Observer.

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