Safe return to work

Opening address at the ILO, WHO and the Government of the Philippines Joint Meeting on Safe Return to Work for MSMEs

By Khalid Hassan, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the ILO, WHO and the Government of the Philippines Joint Meeting on Safe Return to Work for MSMEs, 22 July 2020, Manila, Philippines

Statement | Makati City, Philippines | 22 July 2020
  • Undersecretary Dione of the Department of Labor and Employment,
  • Undersecretary Vergeire of the Department of Health,
  • Undersecretary Castelo of the Department of Trade and Industry,
  • Chief-of-Staff Anayatin of the Ministry of Labor and Employment in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,
  • Dr Abeyasinghe of the World Health Organization in the Philippines,
  • Distinguished government officials and partners,
  • Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon!
This week marks the National Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises or MSME Week in the Philippines.

The theme Recovery to Resilience is very encouraging as enterprises are struggling to survive the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ILO findings from the Monitor on COVID-19 and the World of Work revealed that worldwide, more than 436 million enterprises face high risks of serious disruption. These enterprises are operating in the hardest-hit economic sectors, including some 232 million in wholesale and retail, 111 million in manufacturing, 51 million in accommodation and food services, and 42 million in real estate and other business activities.

Almost 1.6 billion informal economy workers, or 76 per cent of informal employment worldwide are significantly impacted by the current crisis. Among those, women are over-represented. The future trajectory of COVID 19 pandemic will leave the economy with higher unemployment, poverty, or worst case, death.

The effects on business continuity, labour force, revenues and occupational health and safety have been, and continue to be, massive and mostly devastating. Today’s dialogue will discuss needs and challenges but at the same time focus on solutions and actions for safe return to work.

As the ILO Director-General highlighted if one country fails, then we all fail. We have to move fast, decisively, and together. The right, urgent measures, could make the difference between survival and collapse.

As One United Nations family, the ILO and the WHO in the Philippines looked at areas of collaboration back in May. Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic is not just a health crisis, it is an economic and labour market crisis.

Seven areas of common interests were identified. These areas of common interests include:
  • collaboration in the promotion of guidelines of WHO and ILO;
  • link contact tracing solutions to workplace safety;
  • minimize stigma and mobilize social protection;
  • engage employers and workers;
  • achieve safe workplace in telework;
  • practice safe workplace in SMEs ; and
  • communicate effectively workplace prevention and control measures to SMEs, particularly micro and informal ones.
It is crucial to hear your inputs, opinions and voices so that together we can identify gaps and find solutions or at least common actions as a way forward.

The ILO recommends urgent solutions, and large-scale, integrated, policy measures focusing on four pillars: supporting enterprises, employment and incomes; stimulating the economy and jobs; protecting workers in the workplace; and, using social dialogue between government, workers and employers to find solutions.

Government agencies present here have recovery plans, initiatives and actions to address impacts of the pandemic, and to build back better. COVID-19 is a global challenge that calls for coordinated responses and solutions on a global scale. Together, we need to find the right sequence and balance for the necessary mix of health, economic and social policy interventions. We are promoting and using strong social dialogue as the basis for our joint policies and actions.

We all aim to build back better but also safer and fairer. A safe return to work based on a human-centred approach is crucial to help economies and enterprises recover.

Workers, including migrant workers and returning Overseas Filipino Workers must feel safe to cooperate with the new normal – a better normal. Indeed, we have before us a huge task of building a safety and health culture. At the same time, promoting a new normal – a better normal towards a brighter and better future of work.

Thank you!