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ILO update on Covid-19 industry impact spells doom and gloom

Garment factory workers like those pictured are facing an uncertain future as major orders are lost. KT/Pann Rachana

In an updated assessment of the social implications of the coronavirus, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has described the pandemic as “the worst global crisis since World War 2” and estimates that its continuing effects could see 6.7 per cent of working hours globally – the equivalent of 195 million full-time workers – wiped out in the second quarter of the year.

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has stated approximately 60 percent of its factories have been severely affected by cancelled orders of ready-made garment exports, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ken Loo, secretary general of GMAC told Khmer Times that the majority of buyers of Cambodian garments and textiles have already cancelled their orders. However, the association could not put a specific monetary value on what the cancellations will cost.

The ILO, in re-evaluating the impacts the contagion has forced on global trade, in its report: ILO Monitor 2nd Edition: Covid-19 and the World of Work provides sector-specific detail on just how many jobs have been lost and provides hope by establishing pillars under which businesses can look to mitigate damage.

“This is the greatest test for international cooperation in more than 75 years,” said ILO director-general, Guy Rider.

The ILO says that four out of five people in the global workforce of 3.3 billion will be facing either temporary or permananet closures due to the impact of the coronavirus. Education, human health and social work activities, utilities and agriculture are amongst the sectors to have gotten off light in the wake of the outbreak, manufacturing and retail on the other hand are amongst the hardest hit.

“Quarantine measures, closure of retail stores, cancelled orders and salary reductions are suppressing demand in key industries such as automobiles, textiles, clothing, leather and footwear,” the report notes.

No region is unscathed, as is detailed in the ILO’s report. Whilst the global average for declined working hours is 6.7 per cent, in Arab States it has reached 8.1 per cent and across Asia and the Pacific 7.2 per cent have had their working hours cut.

“Workers and businesses are facing catastrophe in both developed and developing countries”  Ryder says. “We have to move fast, decisively and together. The right, urgent measures could make the difference between survival and collapse.”

To this end, the ILO outlines four key pillars to fighting Covid-19 based on international Labour Standards. These are: stimulating the economy and employment; supporting enterprises, jobs and incomes; protecting workers in the workplace; and relying on social dialogue for solutions.

“If one country fails, then we all fail,” concluded Ryder. “We must find solutions that help all segments of global society, particularly those that are most vulnerable or least able to help themselves.” Ecotextile

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