Protecting migrant workers in the Gulf: don’t build back better over a poor foundation

By Vani Saraswathi, Editor-at-Large and Director of Projects, Migrant-Rights.Org

The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states need to completely revamp past policies, and not merely attempt to bridge gaps or provide a salve to deep wounds.

Construction workers in Dubai, UAE. Photo: LongJon / Shutterstock

As of February 2020, millions of migrants –– primarily from South and Southeast Asia and increasingly from East African countries –– were holding up Gulf economies, working in sectors and for wages unappealing to the more affluent citizens. In countries with per capita GDP of US$62,000 or more, minimum wages ranged as low as US$200 per month.

Men were packed into portacabins and decrepit buildings, six to a room if lucky, hidden behind screens of dust and grime, away from the smart buildings they built and shiny glasses they cleaned. The women were trapped 24/7 in homes that are their workplaces, every movement monitored. It is accepted and normalised without question that these men and women will leave behind their families in the hopes of building a better future for themselves. That they may live all their productive life in a strange country, excluded from social security benefits and denied all rights of belonging, is seen as a small price to pay for the supposed fiscal benefits. The fact that the price is too steep is rarely discussed.

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A new social contract for informal workers: Bridging social protection and economic inclusion

By Martha Chen, Senior Advisor, WIEGO and Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, Laura Alfers, Director, Social Protection, WIEGO and Research Associate, Rhodes University, and Sophie Plagerson, Visiting Associate Professor, Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg

Photo by Martha Chen

Calls to renew the social contract have proliferated in recent years as the “standard” employer-employee relationship has ceased to be the norm, while traditional forms of informal employment persist and informalisation of once formal jobs is on the rise.1 However, there is a mismatch globally between traditional social contract models based on assumptions of full (male and formal) employment and the world of work today in which informal workers, both self- and wage employed, constitute over 60 per cent of the global workforce. Can the call for a new social contract really help to achieve greater recognition and a more level playing field for informal workers?

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Growth and labour markets in middle-income countries

By Rolph van der Hoeven1 International Institute of Social Studies at Erasmus University, The Hague & Member of the Committee for Development Policy of the United Nations

“You can check out any time you like but you can never leave… “

It is almost as if the lyrics of the world’s best rated song ‘Hotel California’ were written for the large category of middle-income countries (MICs) as since the classification was introduced in 1992 only four2 MICs outside Eastern and Western Europe (The Republic of Korea, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina) have so far managed to ‘graduate’ to the high-income category. Are all other countries unable ‘to leave’?

To look into this, it is worth recalling that the middle-income country group is a vast one and spans countries with considerable differences in per capita income, growth rates and labour market experiences. MICs are therefore often subdivided into Lower and Higher Middle-Income country categories. To see how dynamics play out, it is therefore as important to look how countries develop within the large MIC grouping, as it is to look at the differences between those MICs that have graduated to the high-income category and those that have not.

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COVID-19 and labour markets in Latin America: How to repair the damage?

By José Manuel Salazar Xirinachs, Former Regional Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for Latin America and the Caribbean, and former Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Lima, Peru – April 7, 2020. Photo: Shutterstock

The damage of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing global lockdown crisis will be devastating, causing the worst disruption to labour markets in Latin America since the Great Depression. Up to 43 million people – probably more – could be unemployed in 2020. Tragically, the state of labour markets in the region was bad even before the crisis. Repairing the damage while addressing past structural legacies is possible, but it will be slow and challenging, and will require something most countries in the region have not done well in the past: a massive focus on microeconomic policies for accelerated productive transformation, and technological and human talent development.

The damage has only just begun and is still evolving, but already looks severe. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates a contraction for the region of -5.3%, the IMF of -5.2%, and the World Bank of -4.6%. All projections now point to severe recessions in all countries in the region. Continue reading

The Case for Gender-Smart Work Policies: Key to Equality, Good for Business

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By Sandie Okoro, Senior Vice President and World Bank Group General Counsel


This blog is part of a special series exploring subjects at the core of the Human-Centred Business Model (HCBM). The HCBM seeks to develop an innovative – human-centred – business model based on a common, holistic and integrated set of economic, social, environmental and ethical rights-based principles. Read more about the HCBM here, and check out an event about it here

The HCBM project originated in 2015 within the World Bank’s Global Forum on Law, Justice and Development and is now based at the OECD’s Development Centre

This blog is also part of a special series marking the launch of the updated
2019 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI)


We have witnessed numerous efforts to enhance gender equality throughout the past decade. Legal reforms are taking place worldwide, and discriminatory laws are slowly being struck down in favour of parity.[1] But despite developments in employment laws, inequality persists. Women’s labour participation has been stagnant, and last year, the already low number of female CEOs tumbled even further.[2] As the provider of 90% of jobs worldwide,[3] the private sector plays a significant role in the push for gender equality in employment. By adopting gender-smart policies, companies may be able to fill the gaps unaddressed by laws and minimise the impacts of inequality in the workplace. Although not all women work in these institutions, such policies are nonetheless impactful for those who do and could set in motion a new and replicable culture of work – one that is both business-smart and more gender-inclusive. Continue reading

Turning a commitment into actions

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By Mario Cerutti, Chief Institutional Relations & Sustainability Officer, Lavazza Group


To learn more about countries’ strategies for economic transformation, follow the 10th  Plenary Meeting and High-Level Meeting of the OECD Initiative for Policy Dialogue on Global Value Chains, Production Transformation and Developmentin Paris, France on 27-28 June 2018.


logo TOward2030At the beginning of 2017, Lavazza launched ‘’Goal Zero’’ – a call to collective action amongst our many stakeholders to pursue the 17 Global Goals of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. The company decided that co-operation, instead of going it alone, is fundamental for any significant results. Still, we faced the question of how to engage different stakeholders in one all-encompassing plan. For Lavazza, answering this means engaging our different stakeholders – employees, youth, suppliers and the surrounding community – using tailored communications tools. We believe that only a strong commitment originating from within Lavazza can, in turn, fuel external communications. So, here’s how we are proceeding:
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What youth need: A greater focus on job quality

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By Niall O’Higgins, Senior Research Specialist, Youth Employment Programme, International Labour Organisation (ILO)


Learn more about this timely topic on the upcoming
OECD Global Forum on Development
Register today to attend


women-africaFor young people, successful entry into the world of work – that is, successful transition from education to employment – means more than simply finding a job. Successful transition occurs only when young people find decent work. What is actually meant by this has been the subject of much debate for a number of years; but its essence is encapsulated in the ILO’s notion of freely chosen and productive employment.

While it can be hard to define precisely what ‘decent work’ looks like, it is fairly clear what it is not. It is not informal employment. It is not work that provides insufficient income to meet basic needs. It does not involve excessive working time or any form of compulsion. Typically, it does involve some degree of job security, protection from arbitrary dismissal, access to social protection, such as health insurance and pension schemes, and freedom of association.
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Unpaid care and domestic work – a global challenge with local solutions

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By Clare Bishop, Senior Consultant for the OECD Policy Dialogue on Women’s Economic Empowerment


Learn more about this timely topic on the upcoming
OECD Global Forum on Development
Register today to attend


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Women working in Mali.  Photo: Shutterstock.com

The pervasive issue of unpaid care and domestic work in the global fight against gender inequality presents itself in many different contexts and guises. Yet, the one constant thread is the impact of unpaid care and domestic work on time availability. The disproportionate workload borne by women –that hinders their full engagement as economic actors in paid employment, their participation in education and training, and their overall quality of life – is widely recognised. Solutions are diverse. They include technological ones to improve water supplies and save time and labour. They embrace policies and practical ways of providing childcare facilities and paternal leave. And they call for addressing cultural norms underlying the unequal gender division of labour for unpaid work.

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Feeding the Global Compact on Migration: How do immigrants contribute to developing countries’ economies?

By Michelle Leighton, Chief, Labour Migration Branch, International Labour Organization (ILO), and Theo Sparreboom, Senior Economist, ILO


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Photo: Shutterstock.com

Before going to Thailand, I already had sewing skills but I did not have the money to open a store. Instead, I had to work as an employee and earned a small income. When I got back to my hometown, I had some savings and was able to open a tailor shop.1

– Female migrant worker from Viet Nam


Contrary to popular belief, migrants have a limited impact on labour market outcomes in low- and middle income countries.2 They are unlikely to take jobs from native-born workers. In some countries, including South Africa, immigration may even create jobs and raise the incomes of the native-born population.

One reason why migrants do not take away jobs is that they are often in jobs that do not appeal to native-born workers. These include so-called non-standard forms of employment such as temporary work, agency work, and dirty or dangerous work. This is not surprising since for many people migration is a necessity and not a choice. Poverty or lack of opportunity encourages people to look for prosperity abroad. While regular channels of migration exist, they are often bureaucratic and expensive. Migrants who use cheaper options may end up in situations of exploitation and abuse.
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China’s economic slowdown: Good or bad news for Europe and Central Asia?

By Maurizio Bussolo, Europe and Central Asia Chief Economist Office, The World Bank Group

 

China-Dev-MattersChina’s economy looms large in global markets. After decades of sustained economic growth, the country became the world’s largest exporter in 2007 and today sells abroad 60% more goods and services than the United States and 75% more than Germany – the second and third largest exporters, respectively. In addition, China is the second largest importer of goods and services in the world, after the United States.

Because of China’s importance in the global economy, news of its economic slowdown and financial sector turmoil have caused many observers to worry. In fact, at the beginning of 2016, some were explaining the plummeting of stock markets as anticipating a growth collapse in China (also reflected in very low oil prices). Continue reading