ITUC Global Covid-19 Survey: Support for government action falls as global jobs crisis takes hold

A global jobs crisis is sweeping across the world with trade unions in eighty-seven percent of countries surveyed reporting that companies have announced they are laying off workers as a result of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Americas and Europe are hardest hit with 100% of countries in the Americas and 90% of countries in Europe saying companies have begun to layoff workers. Eighty percent of countries in Africa and 76% of countries in the Asia-Pacific have companies where workers are losing their jobs.

The findings in the fourth ITUC Global Covid-19 Survey of 130 trade unions from 100 countries, including 16 G20 countries and 32 OECD countries, carried out between 25 - 28th May 2020, shows the world on the brink of a global jobs and income crisis not seen in decades while support for government and employer actions falls.

The digital divide and concerns over the use of technology on privacy rights have been exposed as the new fault lines of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Trade unions from 49% of countries said their government does or intends to use a smart phone app to track and trace people who have been exposed to Covid-19.

The wealthier G20 countries (88%) and OECD countries (75%) have the highest uptake of track and tracing apps, while only 27% of countries in Africa and 33% of countries in the Americas have governments who intend to use a smart phone app to track and trace people who have been exposed to Covid-19.

In those countries which intend to use a smartphone contact tracing app, trade unions in 69% of countries globally have concerns about the privacy provisions of the app and the use of personal data. These are felt most strongly in the Americas (80% of countries) and Europe (78% of countries).

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, we faced a convergence of crises. Massive inequality was driving an age of anger with civil unrest and distrust in democracy that was already recognised as a major risk to economies and societies. And we faced the choices associated with the best and worst impacts of technology devoid of a rights base,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation.

The global trade union movement is calling on governments to put in place recovery and resilience plans which include the following:

  • Job protection and job creation;
  • Income protection and minimum living wages;
  • OHS – including global standards and provisions for safe workplaces;
  • Universal Social Protection to build resilience;
  • Responsible business conduct through supply chains; and
  • Government accountability with social dialogue and the provision of privacy rights.

“These are the foundations for the new social contract between government and societies where people and the planet are on equal footing with the economy,” said Sharan Burrow.

While governments are responding well to the needs of workers in 63% of countries, tracking data shows that 10 countries now have a more negative view of their government’s responses to the pandemic.

Over half of countries (58%) believe that employers are responding badly to the needs of workers affected by the virus, and tracking data shows an increase in countries where employers are responding badly.

“The importance of recovery and resilience plans that are built on social dialogue with a new social contract at their centre will be a test of government and employer action in the coming months,” said Sharan Burrow.


Read the Fourth ITUC Global Covid-19 Survey Key Findings.