Only Six Countries Have Ratified Anti-Harassment Treaty – ILO

 

Only six of the International Labour Organization’s 187 member countries have ratified a treaty against violence and harassment in the workplace two years after it was agreed, the UN body said Monday.

Voted through by a huge majority at the ILO, which brings together governments, employers and trade unions from its member states, the Violence and Harassment Convention has so far been approved in Argentina, Ecuador, Fiji, Namibia, Somalia and Uruguay.

The agreement is legally slated to come into force on Friday June 25, two years after the ILO vote.

“I urge countries to ratify the Convention and help build… a dignified, safe and healthy working life for all,” ILO director-general Guy Ryder said in a statement.

The UN body will launch a campaign to promote ratification and implementation of the agreement, which calls for passing laws and developing policies to prevent violence and harassment at work and aid victims.

Although work on the convention began well before #MeToo campaigns unmasked powerful sexual abusers like Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, the text singles out “violence and harassment directed at persons because of their sex or gender”.

More broadly, “violence and harassment in the world of work can constitute a human rights violation or abuse,” it adds.

As well as interactions in the workplace, the convention covers other areas linked to the world of work like workers’ commute, places for eating, washing and changing and digital communications.

AFP

745,000 Deaths Linked To Long Working Hours – WHO, ILO

A file photo of workers unloading a box from a plane at Felix Houphouet Boigny airport of Abidjan on February 26, 2021. SIA KAMBOU / AFP

 

No fewer than 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease as a result of long working hours were recorded in 2016.

Latest estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) showed that the death figure represented an increase of 29 per cent since 2000.

These estimates were contained in a study titled “Global, regional, and national burdens of ischemic heart disease and stroke attributable to exposure to long working hours for 194 countries, 2000–2016: A systematic analysis from the WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-related Burden of Disease and Injury.”

The study comes as the COVID-19 pandemic shines a spotlight on managing working hours, and accelerating developments that could feed the trend towards increased working time.

 

‘No Job Is Worth The Risk’

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, believes the pandemic has significantly changed the way many people work, noting that teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work.

He said, “Many businesses have been forced to scale back or shut down operations to save money, and people who are still on the payroll end up working longer hours.

“No job is worth the risk of stroke or heart disease. Governments, employers and workers need to work together to agree on limits to protect the health of workers.”

In her reaction, WHO Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, Dr Maria Neira, warned that Working 55 hours or more per week was a serious health hazard.

She, therefore, called on governments, employers, and employees to wake up to the fact that long working hours could lead to premature death.

According to the analysis published in Environment International on Monday, WHO and ILO broke down the figure which revealed that 398,000 people died from stroke and 347,000 from heart disease in 2016 as a result of having worked at least 55 hours a week.

This indicates that between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from heart disease and stroke due to working long hours increased by 42 per cent and 19 per cent respectively.

A file photo of World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
A file photo of World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

 

Ban Mandatory Overtime

“This work-related disease burden is particularly significant in men (72 per cent of deaths occurred among males), people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, and middle-aged or older workers.

“Most of the deaths recorded were among people dying aged 60-79 years, who had worked for 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 years,” part of an article published on WHO’s website read.

It added, “With working long hours now known to be responsible for about one-third of the total estimated work-related burden of disease, it is established as the risk factor with the largest occupational disease burden; this shifts thinking towards a relatively new and more psychosocial occupational risk factor to human health.”

Working 55 or more hours per week rather than to work 35-40 hours a week, the study concludes, is associated with an estimated 35 per cent higher risk of a stroke and a 17 per cent higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease.

It noted that the number of people working long hours was increasing and stood at nine per cent of the total population globally – a trend that puts even more people at risk of work-related disability and early death.

On ways to tackle the alarming death trend, WHO and ILO advised governments to introduce, implement and enforce laws, regulations, and policies that ban mandatory overtime and ensure maximum limits on working time.

They also suggested bipartite or collective bargaining agreements between employers and workers’ associations that could arrange a working time to be more flexible, while at the same time agreeing on a maximum number of working hours.

Employees were also advised to share working hours to ensure that number of hours worked does not climb above 55 or more per week.

Minimum Wage: Progressive Governors’ Forum DG Faults NLC Over Protest

 

The Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukman has berated the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) for protesting against the decentralization of minimum wage.

Lukman in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday said the campaign for the retention of the minimum wage in the exclusive legislative list under the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended, is being handled by the leadership of organised labour, especially Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) based on deliberate distortions of facts.

According to him, one of the claims is that moving minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list in the 1999 Nigerian constitution will contravene provisions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention, which Nigeria is a signatory.

READ ALSO: ‘Is This The Nigeria You Promised?’ Anger, Regret As #FuelPriceHike Dominates Twitter Trend

Lukman, who was until his foray into politics, a high-ranking member of NLC, said the method being adopted by organised labour to press home its demand was outdated.

He enjoined the Nigeria Labour Congress to be objective in the fight against the removal of minimum wage from the exclusive list adding that the process of minimum wage-fixing across the world varies in almost every ILO member country.

 

 

See the full statement below…

DISTORTIONS IN THE MINIMUM WAGE DEBATE

The campaign for the retention of the minimum wage in the exclusive legislative list under the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended, is being handled by the leadership of organised labour, especially Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) based on deliberate distortions of facts. One of the claims is that moving minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list in the 1999 Nigerian constitution will contravene the provision of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention, which Nigeria is a signatory.
While it is true that ILO Convention No. 30 of 1928 Minimum Wage-Fixing Machinery Recommendation provide the guiding principles for the determination of minimum wages in all countries, nowhere was it stipulated that the process should be the exclusive preserve of federal authorities. Anyone interested can confirm the details https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:R030.
If anything, the Convention allow for flexibility for each country to apply the guiding principles to its circumstances through consultative processes that take into consideration all the interests in the country’s labour market. The guiding principle is ‘to ensure that each Member ratifying the Convention is in possession of the information necessary for a decision upon the application of minimum wage-fixing machinery, the wages actually paid and the arrangements, if any, for the regulation of wages should be ascertained in respect of any trade or part of trade to which employers or workers therein request the application of the machinery and furnish information which shows prima facie that no arrangements exist for the effective regulation of wages and that wages are exceptionally low.’
Nowhere in the Convention is it provided that minimum wage-fixing is the exclusive responsibility of federal authorities. There is a requirement for a structure to manage the responsibility of fixing minimum wages. This is provided that ‘minimum wage-fixing machinery, whatever form it may take (for instance, trade boards for individual trades, general boards for groups of trades, compulsory arbitration tribunals), should operate by way of investigation into the relevant conditions in the trade or part of trade concerned and consultation with the interests primarily and principally affected, that is to say, the employers and workers in the trade or part of trade, whose views on all matters relating to the fixing of the minimum rates of wages should, in any case, be solicited and be given full and equal consideration.’
The structure should have representation from the government, labour and employers. Note that governments are expected to participate both as employers as well as sovereign authorities having the responsibility to promulgate laws, which should be respected, based on agreements reached. In fact, the role of governments as sovereign authorities, which also cover the obligation of enforcing the laws are more critical. It is expected that the government’s role as employer of labour should be secondary and in the event that the role of government is influenced more by its responsibility as an employer of labour will weaken the process of minimum wage fixing is provided in ILO Convention No. 30 of 1928.
Globally, in compliance with the provisions of the ILO Convention No. 30, two approaches are adopted by ILO member countries in fixing minimum wages. There is the Committee method and there is the notification method. The Committee method involves the government setting up a committee to undertake enquiries and make recommendations for fixing minimum wage. The notification method is based on the government publishing proposals in official gazettes to inform affected persons. Before publishing the proposal, the government is expected to make consultations. The difference between the two is largely theoretical. Often, the scope and orientation of collective bargaining structures in ILO member countries dictate the approach adopted.
Perhaps, it is also very important to highlight that all the experiences of ILO member countries across the world in handling challenges of minimum wage-fixing emphasises the presence of some preliminary technical functions to arrive at a consensus. Part of the technical work is largely around the process of estimating or computing specific economic variables of productivity, cost of living and affordability. Once those variables are established and agreed by all the different interests, it is then easy to fix the minimum threshold for wages, which then become the minimum wage.
Experiences of all ILO member countries will further confirm that fixing minimum wages is never the exclusive preserve of federal authorities. Since our model of democracy is the United State of America, it should perhaps be the first reference. In US, the minimum wage is set by US Labour Law and a range of state and local laws. As at January 2020, there were 29 states and D.C. with a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum. Almost 90% of US minimum wage workers are earning more than $7.25 per hour, which is the minimum wage at the federal level in the US.
The Federal, States and Counties make laws for minimum wage. The minimum wage for each level is negotiated. Different states are able to set their own minimum wages independent of the federal government. When the state and federal minimum wage differ the higher wage prevails. As at January 2018,  there were 29 states with a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum. Washington, D.C, and New York City have the highest minimum wage at $15.00 per hour. By January 1, 2021, California has the highest state minimum wage at $14.00 per hour, which will be raised to $15 per hour starting January 1, 2022. The minimum wage in New Jersey is $12.00 an hour as of January 1, 2021, but will be raised by a dollar a year until 2024 when it will be $15. Massachusetts minimum wage is $13.50 per hour. A number of states have also in recent years enacted state preemption laws, which exclude local governments from setting their own minimum wage. As at 2017, state preemption laws for local minimum wages have been passed in 25 states.
Legislation has been passed recently in multiple states that significantly raises the minimum wage. California, Illinois, and Massachusetts are all set to raise their minimum wages to $15.00 per hour by January 1, 2023, for California and Massachusetts and by 2025 for Illinois. Colorado raised its minimum wage from $9.30 per hour to $12 per hour by January 1, 2020. New York has also passed legislation to increase its minimum wage to $15.00 per hour over time, with certain Counties and larger companies set on faster schedules than others. Some smaller government entities, such as Counties and Cities, observe minimum wages that are higher than the state as a whole.
The National Minimum Wage in the United Kingdom is set depending on your age, and whether or not you are an apprentice. It has been in place since 2005, and several changes to the way it operates have been made over time. At present, the minimum wage applies to any worker aged 16 or over. However, there are some exceptions, such as people who are working in their employers home, or who are undertaking voluntary work. In these cases, the National Minimum Wage might not apply. For eligible workers aged 25 and over, the minimum wage is known as a National Living Wage. It is expressed as an hourly gross payment, and reviewed every April. For the period April 2017 to March 2018, the National Living Wage paid to employees aged 25 or over, is £7.50 per hour. The National Minimum Wage is set by the UK government. It is reviewed every year, and usually, most categories get an annual increase. However, as the system is quite complicated and based on a number of different age bands, there have been years when employees of certain ages don’t get their minimum pay increased.
Some other countries negotiate with trade unions and employers, and agree on what should be the minimum wages. This means that there could be different minimum wages depending on the sector. Belgium, Norway and Sweden work in this way. Other countries have a different way of managing minimum wages. Singapore has minimum wages set by the government, but only across some low income sectors. These minimum wages are applicable to Singapore nationals and permanent residents only – although employers are encouraged to extend them to other workers as a minimum, too. And yet other countries don’t have any minimum wage at all, preferring to leave employers and employees to negotiate on an individual basis.
Coming closer home, in South Africa and Ghana, minimum wage is determined through negotiations between unions, employers and government. The National Minimum Wage (NMW) in South Africa was increased to R21.69 per hour from March 1, 2021. The 93c increment was announced by Employment and Labour Minister, which is in line with the NMW legislation of January 1, 2019. It is illegal and an unfair labour practice for an employer to unilaterally alter hours of work or other conditions of employment in implementing the NMW. In Ghana, government-mandated minimum wage provides that no worker in Ghana should be paid less then the mandatory minimum rate. Employers in Ghana who fail to pay the Minimum Wage may be subject to punishment by the government of Ghana. Weekly rates per month are calculated 4.33 times the standard hours per week.
What all this means is that the process of minimum wage-fixing across the world varies in almost every ILO member country. As much as every federal authority plays an important role in facilitating the process of fixing the minimum wage, it is never their exclusive legislative jurisdiction. How, as a nation, Nigeria arrived at the constitutional provision of assigning minimum wage under the exclusive legislative list is completely not based on the guiding principles provided under ILO Convention 30 of 1928.
It is however necessary to recognise that there are legitimate fears expressed by organised labour in Nigeria on the potential that the process can be abused if our states are allowed to fix minimum wages through moving minimum wage to the concurrent legislative list. What is required to address such problem is to revive the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC), which normally has representation from labour, employers and government. It used to serve as the tripartite body in Nigeria for the resolution of major labour challenges. As things are, NLAC is hardly existing.
If we have NLAC, why can’t we have members agree to all the variables determining minimum wage in the country – productivity, conditions of living and affordability, based on which the national minimum is reviewed on annual basis being the proposed benchmark for the country? The National Bureau of. Statistics (NBS), National Salaries, Wages and Income Commission and National Productivity Centre (NPC) can handle the task of providing information about the variables of productivity, cost of living and affordability. With objectively computed information, the process of achieving consensus that highlight the minimum threshold for wages can be handled very effectively. Agreement under NLAC can serve as the federal minimum wage. Once agreement is reached at the level of NLAC, a prototype minimum wage bill can be developed and sent to National Economic Council (NEC), chaired by the Vice President of the Federal Republic with Governors of the 36 states as members. Following consideration and adoption by NEC, states can then domesticate provisions of the agreement as contained in the prototype bill based on their peculiar circumstance.
This model was used around 2005 for instance to resolve the challenge of amending our pension law. When the contributory pension law was passed by the National Assembly and accented to by President Olusegun Obasanjo, both unions, employers and state governments were opposed to the new pension law. But through consultations at the level of NLAC, both labour and employers agreed to a prototype pension bill, modeled based on provisions of the new Pension Act, which was presented to the NEC. Eventually, NEC adopted the prototype pension bill, which was transmitted to all the 36 states. The rest is now history as all states have domesticated the pension act based on their peculiarities.
Part of what needs to be resolved is the issue of whether states are allowed to adopt minimum wages below the agreed federal minimum wage established by NLAC as adopted or approved by NEC? Or what minimum wage should apply to workers employed by private organisations whose operation cover many states? First, no state should be allowed to have minimum wage lower than the benchmark as provided in prototype bills adopted by NEC. Secondly, in the case of private employers operating in more than one state, the highest minimum wage should apply.
The current debate about whether states can make minimum wage laws is basically about correcting the distortion in terms of applying the principles of minimum wage fixing as provided in ILO Convention 30 of 1928. It is important we appeal to leadership of organised labour, especially NLC, to stop promoting false information.
The fourth distortion that needs to be corrected is that the proposal to transfer minimum wage to the concurrent legislative list is not to stop the payment of N30,000 minimum. Although many state governments and private employers are having difficulty implementing the N30,000 minimum wage, we should separate the problems associated with implementing agreements from the bigger challenge of correcting the wrong procedure used in fixing the minimum wage in the country. Problems of implementing agreements can be addressed with reference to invoking provisions of Nigerian arbitration laws, which is what ILO Convention 30 of 1928 recommends. As a nation, we have arbitration law. Why is the leadership of organised labour not taking advantage of provisions of our laws to enforce the implementation of minimum wage law?
For emphasis, the challenge before us as a nation is about developing the capacity of our democracy to resolve national problems. It will amount to undermining our democracy to seek to block consideration of proposals before the National Assembly demanding the transfer of minimum wage to the concurrent legislative list of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended. It is quite disappointing that labour leaders are organising protests and threatening to declare a national strike because the National Assembly is considering a democratic proposal. Organised labour and NLC leadership in particular need to be reminded that before the bill can become law, it will have to pass democratic stages that can accommodate labour’s demands.
Specifically, the House of Representatives Committee on Labour will have to organise a public hearing which will invite the submission of organised labour. Even if the bill is passed by the House of Representatives after public hearing, it will require the concurrence of the Senate, with another public hearing necessary. Assuming it is passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, being a matter requiring Constitutional Amendment, it will have to go to State Assemblies and will need endorsement by at least 24 States House of Assemblies. Assuming the bill passed through all these stages, it will have to be accented to by the President of the Federal Republic.
There is a wide scope of opening for engagement with the different layers of our democratic structures in the country to win the support of elected representatives to prevent the bill from coming into law. Instead of exploring how to engage democratic structures and prevent the bill from coming into law, the NLC leadership went to the over drive mode of protest and threats of a strike. Unfortunately, in all of these, it is doubtful if the NLC, its affiliates and all our organised labour bodies in the country are implementing the minimum wage of N30,000 for their employees. Ideally, he who comes to equity should come with clean hand. This is hardly the case. The boundary of accountability should cover organised labour.
Another related issue is that respect begets respect. Leaders of organised labour need to moderate how they easily and cheaply alleged that anyone who is critical or opposed to their position is doing the bidding of others. It appears that the only language they speak in campaigning for their demands is to slander people who disagree with them. We should relate to debate based on the capacity to explain our positions and win support without resort to blackmails. Blackmail and name calling will not resolve our challenges as a nation. NLC leadership and organised labour can allege whatever fancy their imagination, it will not resolve the challenge around issues bordering on implementation of the minimum wage in Nigeria unless we are able to have the courage to do the needful, which is about recognising the rights of all employers and the constituent units of our federation to negotiate and determine laws that affect them.
Finally, there are claims in the media that the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended provides for review of the minimum wage in the country every five years. Nowhere in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, such a provision is made. What came close to that was the proposal by the current Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila in 2017, then as Majority Leader proposed the amendment of the Minimum Wage Act to insert the clause that “The Minimum Wage shall be subject to periodic review every five years.” This proposal was never passed by the 8th National Assembly.
It is important that all these distortions are corrected. Our democracy must be insulated from distortions and falsehood. The struggles of Nigerian workers for a just and better Nigeria should not be oriented based on falsehood and distortions. The earlier NLC leadership retrace their steps and return to the path of truth and democratic engagement to win the support of Nigerians, including elected representatives, the better. Political bullying is antithetical to democracy and is counter productive to the struggles for a decent wage!
This position does not represent the view of any APC Governor or the Progressive Governors Forum.
Salihu Moh. Lukman
Progressive Governors Forum
Abuja

COVID-19 Has Dragged Down Wages Globally – ILO

The ILO says the pandemic has greatly affected workers’ wages. Photo: ILO.

 

As well as hitting global economic activity amidships, the coronavirus has also dragged down wages, an International Labour Organisation report found Wednesday.

The ILO found “the crisis is likely to inflict massive downward pressure on wages in the near future” in a report issued weeks after it estimated the pandemic had slashed trillions off global earnings.

“The wages of women and low-paid workers have been disproportionately affected by the crisis,” indicated the report on global wage trends unveiled by ILO Director-General Guy Ryder and economist Rosalia Vazquez-Alvarez.

The ILO found January-June monthly wages fell or grew more slowly owing to the pandemic in two-thirds of countries for which official data was available, with women disproportionately hit.

Although average wages in one-third of countries studied “appeared to increase, this was largely as a result of substantial numbers of lower-paid workers losing their jobs and therefore skewing the average,” said the ILO, amid a greater trend towards a decline in wages than job losses.

READ ALSO: UK Becomes First Country To Approve Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

Taking an average of 28 European countries, the report found that, without taking state wage subsidies into account, salaries had slipped 6.5 percent — with the average impact 8.1 percent for women and 5.4 percent for men.

“The crisis has also affected lower-paid workers severely. Those in lower-skilled occupations lost more working hours than higher-paying managerial and professional jobs,” said the ILO, calculating the lowest paid 50 percent of workers suffered a 17.3 percent wage drop.

“The growth in inequality created by the Covid-19 crisis threatens a legacy of poverty and social and economic instability that would be devastating,” said Ryder, urging a “human-centred” recovery strategy around “adequate” wage policies.

“If we are going to build a better future we must also deal with some uncomfortable questions about why jobs with high social value, like carers and teachers, are very often linked to low pay.”

The ILO also noted that while some 90 percent of ILO member states had implemented forms of minimum wage, some 266 million people were earning less than the hourly minimum wage through firms’ non-compliance or employee exclusion even prior to the pandemic.

“In developing and emerging countries, better compliance will require moving people away from informal work and into the formal sector,” reducing inequality, said Vazquez-Alvarez, one of the report’s authors.

Ryder urged “adequate wage policies that take into account the sustainability of jobs and enterprises, and also address inequalities and the need to sustain demand.”

In September, Ryder estimated that by June, global working hours had declined by 17.3 percent compared to last December — equivalent to nearly 500 million full-time jobs, as the virus had a “catastrophic” impact valued at around $3.5 trillion or 5.5 percent of global GDP.

AFP

World’s Workers Lost $3.5 Trillion In Wages Amid Pandemic – UN

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on September 5, 2018, Palestinian school children raise the victory gesture over a UN flag during a protest at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, financed by US aid, in the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the occupied West Bank. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

 

The coronavirus pandemic is taking a heavier toll on jobs than previously feared, the UN said Wednesday, with hundreds of millions of jobs lost and workers suffering a “massive” drop in earnings.

In a fresh study, the International Labour Organization (ILO) found that by the mid-year point, global working hours had declined by 17.3 percent compared to last December — equivalent to nearly 500 million full-time jobs.

That is nearly 100 million more job-equivalents than the number forecast by the ILO back in June, when it expected 14 percent of working hours to be lost by the end of the second three-month period of the year.

“The impact has been catastrophic,” ILO chief Guy Ryder told reporters in a virtual briefing, pointing out that global labour income had shrunk by 10.7 percent during the first nine months of the year compared to the same period in 2019.

That amounts to a drop of some $3.5 trillion, or 5.5 percent of the overall global gross domestic product (GDP), the ILO said.

Since surfacing in China late last year, the novel coronavirus has killed nearly one million people worldwide out of the more than 31 million infected.

In addition to the health challenges, lockdowns, travel restrictions and other measures taken to rein in the virus have had a devastating impact on jobs and income across the globe.

– ‘Worsened significantly’ –

The ILO also warned that the outlook for the final three months of 2020 had “worsened significantly” since its last report in June.

The organisation had previously forecast that global working hours would be 4.9 percent lower in the fourth quarter than a year earlier, but said it now expected an 8.6 percent drop, which corresponds to 245 million full-time jobs.

It explained that workers in developing and emerging economies, especially those in informal jobs, had been much more affected than in past crises.

The ILO also pointed out that while many of the most stringent workplace closures have been relaxed, 94 percent of the world’s workers were in countries where some sort of workplace restrictions remain in place.

And Sangheon Lee, head of ILO’s employment policy division, warned that the situation for workers could worsen further.

If second waves of infections bring tighter restrictions and new lockdowns, he said, “the impact on the labour market could be comparable to the magnitude we saw in the second quarter of this year”.

Ryder cautioned against those pushing for policy makers to focus on economy over health in their response to the pandemic.

“It is very clear … that the capacity and the speed with which the global economy can get out of its labour market slump is intimately linked to our capacity to control the pandemic,” he said.

“These two things are very, very intimately intertwined, and we have to act on that understanding.”

The ILO’s report meanwhile showed that the labour market devastation could have been worse without the numerous fiscal stimulus packages provided by governments.

Without such stimulus efforts — amounting to around $9.6 trillion globally — global working hours would have shrunk by a full 28 percent in the second quarter, it said.

But it warned that fiscal stimulus was delivered very unevenly, with low- and middle-income countries receiving around $982 billion less in overall support than their wealthy counterparts.

Ryder urged international efforts to close the gap, insisting that “no group, country or region can beat this crisis alone.”

AFP

Low-Income Countries Need To Spend $80bn To Close Social Protection Gap – ILO

 

Low-income countries in Central and Western Asia, Northern Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa would need to spend nearly 16 per cent of their GDP or $80 billion to close the social protection financing gap worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest policy brief from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has shown.

The study released on Thursday explained that additional sources of financing are needed to guarantee at least basic income security and access to essential health care for all in 2020 alone.

It added that developing countries should invest approximately $1.2 trillion – on average 3.8 percent of their GDP to close the gap which had been before the pandemic.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the social protection financing gap has increased by approximately 30 percent according to Financing gaps in social protection: Global estimate and strategies for developing countries in light of the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

READ ALSO: New Zealand Plunges Into Recession As Economy Shrinks By 12%

“This is the result of the increased need for health-care services and income security for workers who lost their jobs during the lockdown and the reduction of GDP caused by the crisis.

“The situation is particularly dire in low-income countries who would need to spend nearly 16 percent of their GDP to close the gap – around US$80 billion, the report stated in brief.”

It stated that even before the COVID-19 crisis, the global community was failing to live up to the social protection legal and policy commitments it had made in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

“Currently, only 45 percent of the global population is effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit. The remaining population – more than 4 billion people – is completely unprotected.

Stressing further, ILO’s Director of Social Protection Department, Shahrashoub Razavi, said, “Low-income countries must invest approximately US$80 billion, nearly 16 percent of their GDP, to guarantee at least basic income security and access to essential health care to all.”

This is despite the measures taken nationally and internationally to reduce the economic impact of the COVID-19, by providing short-term financing assistance.

The study stated that “some countries have sought innovative sources to increase the fiscal space for extending social protection, like taxes on the trade of large tech companies, the unitary taxation of multinational companies, taxes on financial transactions or airline tickets. With austerity measures already emerging even with the crisis ongoing, these efforts are more pressing than ever.

“Domestic resources are not nearly enough. Closing the annual financing gap requires international resources based on global solidarity,” it emphasised.

The study suggested that mobilisation at the international level should complement national efforts, complementing the efforts of international financial institutions and development cooperation agencies who have already introduced several financial packages to help governments of developing countries tackle the various effects of the crisis.

“More resources are needed to close the financing gap, particularly in low-income countries,” the study said.

Lockdown Easing: ILO Warns Of COVID-19 Resurgence If Workers Are Not Protected

 

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has warned that without adequate protection of returning workers during the lockdown ease countries may face the risk of COVID-19 resurgence.

The UN agency in a statement which was signed on Tuesday said that as the pressure mounts on countries to ease their lockdown restrictions, governments should take action to prevent and control COVID-19 in the workplace, with active involvement and dialogue with employers’ and workers.

“All employers need to carry out risk assessments and ensure their workplaces meet strict occupational safety and health criteria beforehand, to minimize the risk to workers exposure to COVID-19, says the ILO.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Pandemic Is Far From Over, WHO Warns As Countries Ease Lockdown

“Without such controls, countries face the very real risk of a resurgence of the virus. Putting in place the necessary measures will minimize the risk of a second wave of contagion contracted at the workplace.

“The safety and health of our entire workforce is paramount today. In the face of an infectious disease outbreak, how we protect our workers now clearly dictates how safe our communities are, and how resilient our businesses will be, as this pandemic evolves,” ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder said in the statement.

He added that it is only by implementing occupational safety and health measures that we can protect the lives of workers, their families, and the larger communities.

According to the UN agency, risk control measures should be specifically adapted to the needs of workers at the frontline of the pandemic. These include health workers, nurses, doctors, and emergency workers, as well as those in food retail and cleaning services.

The ILO also highlighted the needs of the most vulnerable workers and businesses, in particular those in the informal economy, migrant and domestic workers.

Measures recommended by ILO to protect workers include – among others – education and training on safe and healthy work practices; free provision of PPE as needed, access to public health services, and livelihood alternatives.

‘We Cannot Rely On Importing Food’ With About 200 Million People – Buhari

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said Nigeria cannot depend on food importation before the people would be fed.

He also restated the commitment of his administration to creating jobs for the youthful population across the country.

The President made the remarks during an audience with the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Guy Ryder, at the State House in Abuja.

He stressed that it was simply impossible to continue to import food with the size of the population the nation has.

“In the last four years, this government prioritised agriculture, housing and infrastructure development,” President Buhari was quoted as saying in a statement by his media adviser, Mr Femi Adesina.

He added, “Our focus in these areas was to create jobs today and ensure peace and equitable prosperity for future generations.

“On agriculture, it was simple; a country with a population of close to 200 million has to be able to feed itself. We cannot rely on importing food.”

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The President also told the ILO chief that his administration had “attacked head-on the big deficit in power, roads, bridges, rails and housing … in order to ensure adequate housing is available today and for many years to come.”

He attributed some of the achievements of his administration so far to consultations before taking critical decisions affecting the labour force.

President Buhari said, “Our achievements to date were as a result of strategic fiscal and monetary policy decisions. In some instances, we partnered with stakeholders such as the labour unions – a good example was during the African Continental Free Trade Agreement review and the National Minimum Wage negotiations.

“This consultative approach aligns with the vision of the ILO to keep communications open, create jobs, ensure social justice and eliminate worker exploitation.”

The President used the opportunity to congratulate the international organisation on its 100th year anniversary.

Earlier, Mr Ryder told President Buhari that he was in Nigeria to attend the Global Youth Employment Forum where over 60 countries have gathered to address practically the most pressing challenge of finding decent jobs for young people.

He also expressed the commitment of the organisation to existing partnership and cooperation with Nigeria.

“We have worked with the Labour Ministry to prepare employment policies about youth employment, migration safety and health productivity.

“The focus is the practical implementation of these plans,” the ILO chief said.

SERAP Drags Government To ILO Over Unpaid Workers’ Salaries

SERAPThe thorny issue of unpaid workers continues to make the headlines with the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) dragging state governments and the Federal Government to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The organisation said that the complaint was brought pursuant to Articles 26-34 of the ILO Constitution.

SERAP is asking the ILO to establish without delay, a commission of inquiry to examine the systematic and non-observance of Convention No 29 on forced labour and other international standards on the right of workers to timely payment of salaries.

SERAP’s Complaint

”SERAP is seriously concerned that several state governments and the Federal Government of Nigeria are failing and/or refusing to pay workers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements, amounting to billions of dollars in arrears. The state governments that have failed and/or refused to pay workers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements include: Osun, Rivers, Oyo, Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Ondo, Plateau, Benue, and Bauchi states.

SERAP argues; ”The failure and/or refusal of state governments and Federal Government to pay workers’ salaries and allowances and pensioners’ entitlements is a clear violation of the right to work recognized by various ILO instruments and Article 6 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Nigeria is a state party. The right to work is essential for realizing other human rights and forms an inseparable and inherent part of human dignity.

”The Failure of states to pay workers’ salaries is tantamount to penalising them, and as the International Labour Organization has ruled, menace penalty amounts to forced labour and economic exploitation. This is because the workers have not offered themselves to work without pay.”

They also said: ”The failure to pay workers’ salaries amount to a fundamental breach of the obligation to ensure the absence of forced labour and economic exploitation, and guarantee workers’ remuneration so as to provide an income allowing workers to support themselves and their families. The right to work contributes to the survival of the individual and to that of his/her family, and to his/her development and recognition within the community. Therefore, by failing to pay workers’ salaries, the state governments in Nigeria have violated the right of the workers to live in dignity.

”There is absolutely no justification why state governments or the Federal Government in Nigeria should not pay workers’ salaries. In fact, international law provides that workers’ salaries must be paid even in times of severe resource constraints, as disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups must be protected by the adoption of targeted programmes to ensure that they live in dignity.

“The failure of the state governments and the Federal Government in Nigeria to pay workers’ salaries is as a result mismanagement of resources and corruption which under the Covenant amount to ‘deliberate retrogression’ in the protection of the right to work.

”While ordinary Nigerian workers and pensioners are routinely denied their salaries and entitlements, senior government officials continue to receive their salaries and live lavishly. This also clearly amounts to discrimination against workers on the grounds of national or social origin, or civil, political, social or other status, as it has the effect of impairing or nullifying exercise of the right to work on a basis of equality.

”The failure to pay workers’ salaries also violates Nigeria’s obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the right to work, including requiring state governments and Federal Government in Nigeria to refrain from interfering directly or indirectly with the enjoyment of that right and to adopt appropriate economic and budgetary measures to ensure timely payment of workers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements.

”The failure of state governments and Federal Government in Nigeria to pay workers’ salaries show that they are unwilling to use the maximum of their available resources through insufficient expenditure or misallocation of public funds, for the realization of the right to work in violation of their obligations under Article 6.

”The country’s justice system has proven highly inadequate to enforce the right of workers to timely remuneration and freedom from economic exploitation. The state governments and Federal Government of Nigeria have taken no effective measures to address the salary crisis in the country, and have in fact significantly downplayed it.”

SERAP also said that the right to work is essential for realizing other human rights and forms an inseparable and inherent part of human dignity.

NAICOM plans micro-insurance for poor Nigerians

The National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) has promised to come up with an action plan for the promotion of micro-insurance that will reduce poverty and aid sustainable economic development in the country.

The Commissioner for Insurance, Mr Fola Daniel announced the plan at a stakeholders meeting on micro-finance in Abuja.

According to Mr Daniel, the commission is at the final stage of developing a reliable micro-insurance framework with clear rules for investment and innovative procedures to reach the poor.

He noted that NAICOM has been making concerted efforts to deepen the Nigerian insurance market.

He further revealed that NAICOM is at the final stage of developing a reliable micro-insurance framework with clear rules and procedures to reach the poor.

These small steps, he claimed are guaranteed to ensure that the insurance culture is deeply entrenched especially to benefit Nigerians at the grass root.

Through international collaborations, last year the commission conducted a nationwide study on the potentials of micro-insurance in Nigeria with a drive to develop micro-insurance specifically designed towards the protection of low-income earners in the country.

International partners at the meeting however lamented that the Nigerian insurance sector has a grossly untapped opportunity with low market penetration.

The chief technical advisor from the International Labour Organization (ILO), Mr Yoseph Aseffa called for more support from the government towards advancing the micro-insurance initiative in Nigeria.