The International Labour Organization (ILO) is hosting the 109th session of its annual International Labour Conference from June 16 to 18.
The focus will be on the response to the devastating impact of COVID-19 and the action required to build a better future of work.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Karl Samuda, who is representing Jamaica, congratulated the ILO for convening this very important meeting.
Mr. Samuda said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on Jamaica and the Caribbean; however, Jamaica remains steadfast and committed to achieving its economic goals, despite the challenges.
He said that prior to the pandemic, “Jamaica was on the right path to achieving economic growth and development. However, following the first case of COVID-19 in March 2020, the rate of unemployment increased significantly to 12.6 per cent and by July 2020 our economy contracted by 10 per cent”.
The Minister pointed out that the Government has provided tax incentives to mitigate the fallout, particularly to the micro, small and medium-sized entities, resulting in the return of $1 billion to employers.
In addition, $10 billion was spent on implementing a social and economic support programme, through the CARE Programme, which is providing well-needed assistance to vulnerable individuals and small businesses.
Mr. Samuda disclosed that Jamaica has established A COVID-19 labour market task force to examine the impact of the pandemic on workers and employers and to provide recommendations for labour market resilience.
He noted that employers were encouraged to utilise flexible work arrangements and the use of technology in order to restore productivity and to keep persons employed.
“We must put productive employment and decent work at the centre of our economic and social policies if we are to recover from this pandemic. We can only do this through vaccinations. However, the reality is that limited access to vaccines by developing countries such as Jamaica means that the pace of our economic recovery is slow and the negative impact on our people will continue. Poorer countries, such as Jamaica, are forced to adopt harsh non-vaccine measures to contain the spread of the virus,” he said.
The Minister also gave Jamaica’s commitment to continue working with the ILO’s Regional Office on initiatives to promote social protection and decent work, particularly as the economic downturn caused by the pandemic presents fertile ground for the expansion of informality and child labour.
He called on world leaders to work very diligently to assist developing countries to improve access to vaccines, and work together to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end.
During the first day of the Summit, Heads of State or government representatives had the opportunity to express their views on the key issues facing the world of work.