With nine out of ten official jobs in developing countries in the private sector, it is above all a question of whether companies can afford and want to act responsibly.
When the coronavirus threatens to plague companies and their employees in Finland or other rich countries, often with the help of the state. To secure jobs, companies as well as their employees and customers are supported. The state is indebted, but it is often justified and affordable.
In developing countries, the state tends to have much less affordability and borrowing capacity. Unlike us, a company whose revenue collapses or expenses increase due to a coronavirus typically does not receive public support to take care of its employees. In some countries, social security is either low or non-existent, leaving workers blank when their pay or other livelihood ends.
It is also difficult for an ordinary worker to save for a bad day where productivity and wages are low and wages are lived hand to mouth. Raising wages to a level sufficient to live is therefore of paramount importance. Often this is only possible if labor productivity also improves.
The coronavirus situation has highlighted the importance of responsible, good jobs. With nine out of ten official jobs in developing countries in the private sector, it is first and foremost a question of whether companies and their owners and financiers can afford and want to act responsibly.
Many companies do their best in difficult situations. They understand that in the absence of work and pay, the livelihood and food supply of an employee’s entire family may be at stake.
Responsible the role of companies and patient financiers is also emphasized in pandemic management and in safeguarding the health of workers when the carrying capacity of the health care system is weak or even non-existent. Good companies take care of the survival of workers and often also of their families and communities: protective equipment, hygiene training and health services in the event of illness are provided. These are also typically the things that unions have shunned from employers and achieved through effective lobbying.
Social security has an important role to play in reducing poverty. Of course, many developing countries have already achieved or almost achieved universal social security, but the practical implementation varies.
The coronavirus crisis has further highlighted the importance of effective health care and social security. At the same time, it has also served as an excuse to go through the political changes that policymakers want.
In many developing countries, the situation has made it possible, for example, to weaken labor rights in a way that would not normally be possible. In several countries, reforms to improve the conditions of workers have been put on ice due to lack of money, and in a few the benefits and rights already achieved have been weakened. It also seems that, under the guise of the coronavirus, for example, opportunities for political participation are being reduced more than would be necessary.
Coronavirus situation has highlighted even more clearly the importance of developing responsible, good jobs and working life.
Therefore, they should also be at the heart of Finland’s future Africa strategy.
Executive Vice President, SASK
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