Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, is currently pushing for arenewed social contract as a veritable tool for speedier recovery from the havoc of the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic now in its second year.
“Global solidarity so far has been completely inadequate”, Guterres said as investment in jobs, social protection and a just transition to a net-zero emissions future, particularly in low and middle-income countries are being adversely affected, warning that all these could prevent a further deepening of inequalities.
In a new policy brief on jobs and poverty eradication, outlined by the UN chief, it is now clear that two years into the COVID-19 crisis, a huge divergence in the recovery is undermining global trust and solidarity.
TheUN Secretary-General is also warning that the pandemic has not only confirmed but deepened existing inequalities. According to the policy brief, extreme poverty increased by between 119 and 224 million people between March and December 2020 – the first such increase in over 21 years.
More than three-quarters of these ‘new poor’ are in middle-income countries. At the same time, the wealth of billionaires increased by over $ 3.9 trillion.
The report noted that 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.
It also estimates that 8.8 percent of total working hours were lost in 2020 – equivalent to the hours worked in one year by 255 million full-time workers.
This corresponds to a loss of $3.3 trillion in labour income before government support.
To achieve “a job-rich recovery” and a “just transition,” at least $982 billion is needed to respond to the immediate labour market shocks of the crisis, the report said.
Achieving universal social protection
Guteress is calling for universal social protection by 2030, including universal health care, income protection, education and skills training, particularly for women and girls. The many ad-hoc and temporary measures that have been implemented over the past year “provide a starting point”, he noted.
To achieve this we must mobilize significant public and private investments – some $1.2 trillion to achieve universal social protection coverage for low and middle-income countries, he said.
Investments must also be ramped up to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and address the risks from climate change that could jeopardize 1.2 billion jobs, equivalent to 40 percent of the global labour force.
During the presentation, Guterres announced the creation of a new Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for a Just Transition, in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The aim of the Accelerator is to create at least 400 million jobs by 2030, primarily in the green and care economies, and extend social protection floors by 2025 to 50 percent of people currently not covered, he said.
The Policy Brief recommended several measures to achieve this:
Integrated national and inclusive recovery strategies, expanded investment in Social Protection.
Policy measures to extend social protection to workers in the informal economy, and to formalize employment in the care economy.
Policies should be introduced to help workers upskill and re-skill.
Sound financial architecture must be developed to mobilize investments.
Collaboration with the private sector should be made to scale up investments in strategic sectors and strategies must be aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement.
The upcoming meetings of international financial institutions, the G20, and COP26 will be “a pivotal moment to put the world on a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive path,” Guterres said. “Global cooperation is indispensable to building resilience to future shocks, through economies that work for everyone.”
The UN chief presented his brief at the High-Level Meeting on Jobs and Social Protection for Poverty Eradication, that gathered, virtually, world leaders, heads of major international organisations, finance institutions, civil society, private sector and academia.
Speaking at the event, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Guy Ryder, warned that the differences between developed and developing countries are growing, “the contrary of building back better.”
He said that “the world was not prepared for COVID-19’’, but now “must be ready to deliver a recovery that benefits all.” For him, this means injecting the necessary finance to support all countries.
“The Global Accelerator for Jobs & Social Protection is designed to channel national and international, public and private financial flows to provide social protection floors for the 4 billion people who fall outside any existing coverage and to the creation of decent jobs, above all in the green economy and in the care economy om the scale now urgently needed,” he said.
For Ryder, “the level of ambition is high, because it would be irresponsible to be less ambitious.”
Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) pointed to the fight against tax evasion and illicit financial flows, speaking to correspondents in New York.
Alicia Barcena said these were “fundamental obstacles to the mobilization of internal resources” in her region and have a value of about $325 billion a year.
She also mentioned the illicit financial flows resulting from the manipulation of the international trade in goods, saying they have an estimated value of about $85 billion, or 1.6% of the GDP.
Latin America and the Caribbean is the most indebted region in the developing world, with the highest debt service, representing 59% of its exports of goods and services.
For Ms. Barcena, debt relief is one of the measures that must be implemented, especially in the Caribbean. ECLAC proposes the relief of 12% of the total debt of the regional and the creation of a Caribbean Resilience Fund.
She said the region “faces inequality, underfunded health systems and accumulated structural gaps in social protection.”