Undoubtedly, the current pandemic (COVID-19) invading and ravaging the world carries with it lots of threats and challenges in the workplace in particular.
Some economic experts have predicted that the disruptions associated with COVID-19 would be devastating which will lead to job losses and recession. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has predicted that a minimum of 25 million jobs would be lost globally following the pandemic.
In Nigeria, the unemployment rate is above 23.1 per cent; underemployment stands at 20.21 per cent totalling 43.3 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Political economists could be right when they forecast that the unemployment rate would hit 33.5 per cent in 2020.
Following this pandemic, it has become very clear that structural changes are inevitable which would aggravate the plight of the labour sector. For instance, the recent move by a particular Nigerian to slash salaries and possible termination of appointments of workers was a warning signal to both employees and employers to tighten their belts especially the latter, (thanks to the Bankers’ Committee).
Reacting to this unfortunate action, the Trade Union Congress, Lagos Council, in a press statement delivered by its chairman, Comrade Gbenga Ekundayo, frowned at such dehumanizing action against citizens who neither caused the pandemic nor its aftermath effects in the world.
Ekundayo called on the government and employers of labour to rather than sack employees, empower them with the requisite skills needed to meet the current challenges in the workplace.
His statement reads: “Our message to all employers of labour is that we must all ensure the sustainability of businesses and jobs through coordinated policy response, social dialogue and engaging the workers’ representatives. This is very key in building public trust and support for measures that will be needed to mitigate the damage and overcome this crisis.
“The solution to a post-COVID-19 pandemic is for government to diversify the economy as oil prices have dropped, make provision for contingency period and have accurate national data for policy design, planning decisions making and investing more in technology as work is going on in most countries with the use of teleconferencing and other online platforms,” he added.
The labour leader who spoke during 2020 Workers Day celebration (May 1st) noted that although it’s high time employees and graduates revved up their skills, however, the government must come up with sound fiscal and monetary policies to keep the economy in check for a favourable sailing so that businesses can thrive. He sued for more investment in technology, diversification of economy and support for local contents (in all products and services provided by Nigerian entrepreneurs).
Equally, the Director-General of ILO, Guy Ryder in a statement said there was an urgent need for policy measures. He maintained thus: “The ILO calls for urgent, targeted and flexible measures to support workers and businesses, particularly smaller enterprises, those in the informal economy and others who are vulnerable.
“For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. As the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent.
“Millions of businesses around the world are barely breathing. They have no savings or access to credit. These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don’t help them now, these enterprises will simply perish,” he asserted.
Guy Ryder’s measures for economic reactivation should follow a job-rich approach, backed by stronger employment policies and institutions, better-resourced and comprehensive social protection systems by heads of government.
Be that as it may, it’s high time we understood the need to show empathy and affinity for one another. Everyone should look inward and deploy backward integration to avoid recession and possible depression. The world is thinking and acting fast; not on how to rape nor milk their treasuries dry but how to make life comfortable for their citizens by altruistic, human and business-friendly policies. Nigeria cannot afford to take the back seat in this regard.
Let those in the know dish out ideas to contend with the effects of COVID-19 as it affects our socio-economic and political life, while those on whose shoulders rest the onus to take actions to implement feasible and viable ideas should do so for the interest of the country. We must remind ourselves that what affects one part of the body apparently makes the whole body uncomfortable.
Politicians and their loyalists must cease beating their drums now and synergize with men and women of great ideas to fix the economy first before their personal interest; we must strive to ameliorate the plight of one another in this critical period.