COVID-19 and the world of work

Sectoral impact, responses and recommendations

The ILO’s preliminary assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on specific social and economic sectors and industries is captured in a series of sectoral briefs.

The briefs also contain policy responses and measures taken by ILO constituents – governments, employers and workers – as well as available ILO tools and responses at the sector-specific level.

The intended audience is ILO constituents at the national, sectoral, regional and global level, as well as international organizations and other partners in the effort to advance decent work for women and men in specific social and economic sectors.

The briefs will be updated regularly.

Constituents are invited to comment on and contribute to the briefs so that they can serve as repository of good practices and lessons learned in pandemic responses in order to “build back better” in the post-pandemic future.​

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  1. COVID-19 and the sports sector

    The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic disrupted every aspect of the sporting value chain. The sports industry as a whole provides millions of jobs and has an estimated value of US$756 billion annually. The global cancellation of sporting events affected athletes, teams, leagues, and media that broadcast games. The three main sources of income for professional sports leagues – broadcasting (sales of media rights), commercial (sponsorship and advertising partnerships) and match day revenue (ticketing and hospitality) – all decreased significantly.

  2. COVID-19 and the port sector

    Ports provide key infrastructure in support of international trade and the global economy. They vary in size from wharves handling at most a few hundred tonnes of cargo a year to large international ports or multi-modal hubs combining a broad range of logistical services, from warehousing to total supply chain management. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ports have had to adjust to the reality of lower volumes, worker shortages, the implementation of occupational health and safety measures for dockers and shore personnel, and the adoption of teleworking and remote operations for office workers. In some countries, calls by cruise ships have come to a halt. This policy brief summarizes the issues relating to COVID-19 and decent work challenges in the port sector.

  3. COVID-19 and the meat processing sector

    The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to exert pressures on the agri-food industry both from the business and workers’ sides, with some sectors shouldering a particularly high burden. The meat processing sector is one of them. As the effects of the pandemic on our food systems continue to unfold, the learnings from the outbreaks in processing plants in several major meat-producing countries are catalysing reforms that should contribute to the sustainable development of the sector.

  4. COVID and the construction sector

    The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the construction sector, which is sensitive to economic cycles. Yet, on the upside, construction holds much potential to stimulate recovery, thanks to its potential to create jobs; and in turn, recovery measures can support the sector’s transformation towards sustainability and digitalization. Tripartite cooperation and social dialogue, together with international labour standards, are key to promote a human-centred recovery of the construction sector from the crisis.

  5. COVID-19 and care workers providing home or institution-based care

    The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the already overburdened and understaffed home and institution-based care sector in many countries. This brief highlights the challenges faced in the recruitment, deployment, retention and protection of sufficient numbers of well-trained and motivated care workers. Sustainable investment in health and social care systems, including in the workforce itself, and in decent working conditions are needed to ensure the preparedness and resilience of the sector in times of crisis and beyond. Ensuring that care workers, together with their employers and other relevant stakeholders have an opportunity to make their voices heard is critical if they are to play a full and active role in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  6. COVID-19 and Urban Passenger Transport Services

    This policy brief seeks to summarize the issues relating to COVID-19 and urban passenger transport workers. The brief discusses the mains impacts of the pandemic in the sector. It also includes information on the tripartite and sectoral measures that employers, workers and governments have taken to support the sector and its workers, and on the ILO’s principles and tools, including international labour standards.

  7. Hand hygiene at the workplace

    Workplaces, particularly those that employ migrant workers and those in the informal economy, have taken centre stage in the containment of the COVID-19 virus.  Since the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, adopted by the 108th Session of the International Labour Conference (Geneva, 2019), emphasizes that safe and healthy working conditions are fundamental to decent work, we dedicate this policy brief to hand hygiene in workplaces.  The main message is that all workers must have the facilities to wash their hands safely and adequately at work in order to prevent or reduce the spread of COVID-19.

  8. COVID-19 and the media and culture sector

    This brief highlights the impact of COVID-19 on the media and culture sector, hit hard by unemployment and closed productions. It analyses how the sector’s diversity in terms of contract types and occupations creates challenges  in accessing social protection, safety and health, and economic relief programmes. The brief also offers policy options, drawing from countries’ examples and initiatives from workers’ and employers’ organizations, to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic on the sector.

  9. COVID-19 and the forest sector

    The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting public health and causing unprecedented disruptions to economies and labour markets, including for workers and enterprises in the forest sector. It has exacerbated existing challenges, with many enterprises and workers suffering as a consequence. In response, governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, and other forestry stakeholders around the world, are collaborating to mitigate the impact of the pandemic with a view to protecting businesses and livelihoods, including through social dialogue and the promotion of international labour standards.

  10. COVID-19 and the Public Service

    Besides health and education workers, all public servants play a role in halting the spread and recovering from the pandemic. This is true regardless of their occupation: whether in the administration of the state like tax collectors, police or correctional officers; implementing economic and social policies like labour inspectors; providing services to the community like waste collectors; or supporting compulsory social security systems like social workers. As custodians of public goods, public servants are indispensable conduits for the recovery. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the crucial importance of disaster preparedness and that private-sector partners cannot manage alone the scope of interventions needed now.

  11. COVID-19 and road transport

    The road transport sector is essential to social and economic development and guarantees mobility across jurisdictions and countries. But in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries around the world have placed restrictions on domestic transit and/or closed border crossings for road freight transport services. Urgent action by governments, the social partners and parties to road transport supply chain parties – including shippers, receivers, transport buyers and intermediaries – will be critical in addressing decent work challenges for these key workers to tackle the crisis effectively.

  12. COVID-19 and Public Emergency Services

    This policy brief addresses issues relating to public sector workers who perform frontline duties in confronting the COVID-19 crisis in the name of the State, often described in statutes as essential services. The brief discusses their role in dealing with the crisis, the measures that governments have taken to support their work and the ILO principles and tools, including international labour standards, that protect them.

  13. COVID-19 and the automotive industry

    The automotive industry has been hit by a triple whammy: factory closures, supply chain disruption, and a collapse in demand. Just-in-time manufacturing processes have propagated the impact across the globe. Small and medium enterprises are among those hardest hit and millions of jobs are at risk. Automakers are key to kick-starting the global economy. Not only by producing life-saving ventilators and facemasks. Sustainable industrial policies and targeted support and are key to a lasting recovery – to building back better – with decent work for more women and men.

  14. COVID-19 and food retail

    Food retail workers have emerged as a new category of frontline services during this pandemic. While essential to guaranteeing food security, they are themselves at high risk of exposure to infection and play a key role in food safety. To ensure adequate numbers of food workers, they need access to and training on personal protective equipment and hygiene protocols, as well as working conditions that provide adequate wages and access to social protection, including paid sick leave.

  15. COVID-19 and the textiles, clothing, leather and footwear industries

    The viability of the textiles, clothing, leather and footwear industries is unravelling, as workers are told to stay at home, factories close, and global supply chains grind to a halt. The cancellation of orders has hit thousands of firms and millions of workers particularly hard. We urgently need solidarity and joint action across the industries’ supply chains. The ILO is committed to supporting governments in protecting the health and economic well-being of workers and businesses in the textiles, clothing, leather and footwear industries.

  16. COVID-19 and civil aviation

    To curb the spread of COVID-19, a combination of flight cancellations and restrictions have almost entirely halted international travel. The impact of the pandemic on employment has been immediate and significant. Cost-reduction strategies may include a wide range of policies that will have an impact on employment and decent work in the civil aviation sector. The ILO has accumulated experience from previous crisis situations to help the sector recover from this shock.

  17. COVID-19 and the health sector

    The COVID-19 crisis is drawing attention to the already overburdened public health systems in many countries, and to the challenges faced in recruiting, deploying, retaining and protecting sufficient well-trained, supported and motivated health workers. It highlights the strong need for sustainable investment in health systems, including in the health workforce, and for decent working conditions, training and equipment, especially in relation to personal protective equipment and occupational safety. Social dialogue is essential to building resilient health systems, and therefore has a critical role both in crisis response and in building a future that is prepared for health emergencies.

  18. COVID-19 and the education sector

    Teachers have had to adapt to a world of almost universal distance education as nearly 94 per cent of all learners have faced school closures. Most teachers and their organizations have embraced this challenge, although in many developing countries teachers lack the skills and equipment to provide distance education effectively. As governments consider reopening school as confinement measures are relaxed, the safety of learners and teachers should be paramount, and social distancing of learners, access to personal protective equipment, and regular virus testing will be key.

  19. COVID-19 and maritime shipping & fishing

    Shipping carries most world trade, and fishing provides essential food. The pandemic impacts the safety and well-being of seafarers and fishers, their ability to join their vessels and return home, and the future of their jobs. Seafarers on cruise ships, which have often barred from entering port, are particularly hard hit. The ILO is working to protect these key maritime workers as the world seeks to protect public health.

  20. COVID-19 and the tourism sector

    Tourism is a major driver of jobs and growth. But COVID-19 has dramatically changed this. The impact on tourism enterprises and workers, the majority being young women, is unprecedented. Timely, large-scale and, in particular, coordinated policy efforts both at international and national levels are needed in consultation with governments, employers’ and workers’ representatives, taking into consideration relevant ILO international labour standards.

  21. COVID-19 and agriculture and food security

    While working to feed the world, many agricultural workers are unable to lift themselves out of poverty and food insecurity. As the pandemic spreads, the continued functioning of food supply chains is crucial in preventing a food crisis and reducing the negative impact on the global economy. Coordinated policy responses are needed to support agribusiness and the livelihoods and working conditions of millions of agricultural workers in line with relevant international labour standards.