ILO canvasses improved working conditions

The International Labour Organisation has emphasised the need for countries to improve the working conditions of personnel who were essential during the COVID-19 crisis, to reflect their contribution to society and their importance in the daily functioning of economies.

The organisation stated this in its “World Employment and Social Outlook 2023” report.

The ILO Director-General, Gilbert F. Houngbo, said, “Healthcare workers, supermarket cashiers, delivery workers, postal workers, seafarers, cleaners, and others supplying food and necessities continued to perform their jobs, day in and day out, even at the height of the pandemic, often at great personal risk.

“Valuing key workers means ensuring that they receive adequate pay and work in good conditions. Decent work is an objective for all workers, but it is particularly critical for key workers, who provide vital necessities and services both in good times and bad.”

The report noted that the value of essential work underscores the extent to which economies and societies depend on key workers, and how they are undervalued.

It further mentioned that the poor working conditions of key workers exacerbate employee turnover and labour shortages, jeopardising the provision of basic services.

It indicated that improvements in working conditions and greater investment in food systems, health care and other key sectors were necessary for building economic and social resilience to shocks.

The report stated that across the world 29 per cent of key workers were low-paid (where low paid was defined as pay that was less than two-thirds of the hourly median wage).

Meanwhile, it said on average, key workers earn 26 per cent less than other employees, with only two-thirds of this gap being accounted for by education and experience.

“In food systems, the share of low-paid key employees is particularly high, at 47 per cent, and in cleaning and sanitation it is 31 per cent,” the report noted.

According to the report, nearly one in three key workers is on a temporary contract, although there are considerable countries and sectoral differences.

It stated, “In the food industry 46 per cent are in temporary work. One-in-three employees in manual occupations and in cleaning and sanitation are on temporary contracts.

“Key workers can be found in eight main occupational groups covering health, food systems, retail, security, cleaning and sanitation, transport, manual and technical and clerical occupations.”

The report showed that in the 90 countries where data was available, 52 per cent of all employment was done by key workers, although in high-income countries, where economic activities were more diversified, the share was lower (34 per cent).

It said during the COVID-19 crisis key workers suffered higher mortality rates than non-key workers, overall.

“Among different categories of key workers mortality rates varied; for example, in countries with available data, transport workers had higher mortality rates than health workers.”

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