Virtual Event

Leaving No One Behind and building back better from COVID-19: The Future of Work in LDCs

UN leaders call for policies to support LDCs’ future of work

News | 12 December 2020
On 19 November, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS) convened a multi-stakeholder dialogue, “Leaving no one behind and building back better from COVID-19: The Future of Work in LDCs”. The side event provided an opportunity to discuss the complex challenges faced by LDCs as they recover from the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and achieve a decent future of work for all.

Nearing the end of the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPOA) and pursuing the UN Decade of Action, the event was organized to reflect on labour market vulnerabilities in LDCs and targeted actions required at national and international levels to deliver a prosperous future of work in LDCs. The event assessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on labour markets in LDCs and explored policy frameworks aimed at fostering a job-rich recovery. The discussion provided policy recommendations for further consideration as member States prepare for the Fifth United Nations Conference on the LDCs (LDC5), where a new Programme of Action for LDCs will be agreed.

As chair of the meeting, H.E. Ms. Rabab Fatima, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic have caused unemployment rate to reach its highest level since the great depression, with women and those in the informal economy hit the hardest. COVID-19 have also disrupted education for children and youth. H.E. Ms. Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani, Permanent Representative of Qatar to the United Nations, emphasized the need for public-private partnerships to jointly close the digital gap and scale up innovative solutions. Further, many participants, including H.E. Mr. Perks Ligoya, Permanent Representative of Malawi to the United Nations, highlighted the pandemic’s negative effect on exports, remittances and debt burdens, leading to economic contractions. Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, also highlighted the severe impact on the key sectors in LDCs, namely manufacturing, travel, tourism and hospitality. Mr. Moussa Oumarou, Deputy Director General for Field Operations and Partnerships, ILO, underscored the need to implement policies to enhance the resilience of labour markets and advance the prospects for decent jobs in LDCs.
Mr. Aurelio Parisotto, Head, Employment and Economic Analyses Unit, Employment Policy Department, ILO, set the context for the panel discussion by presenting the latest findings as outlined in an ILO report, “COVID-19: Tackling the Jobs Crisis in the Least Developed Countries”. Evidence showed that labour markets in LDCs were suffering from simultaneous shocks. While LDCs were relatively less affected by the public health effects of COVID-19, they could end up suffering the most economically and socially. Many LDCs acted fast, with innovative measures and in some cases using new technologies. New ways were found to provide emergency relief to workers and businesses in the informal economy. But fiscal constraints remain a major challenge, with fiscal support across low-income economies averaging 1.4 per cent of GDP, much below the size of the economic shocks affecting households and enterprises.

During the panel discussion, Mr. Boštjan Skalar, CEO, World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA), pointed out that external investments will be needed to build back better in LDCs, and digital tools can be leveraged to successfully promote investments in LDCs. Ms. Chema Triki, Advisor, Job Creation Commission of Ethiopia, highlighted the country’s efforts to support businesses during the COVID-19 socio-economic crisis, but noted that future improvements were needed for social protection mechanisms and digitalization of public services, such as wage subsidies. Ms. Khamati Mugalla, Executive Secretary of East African Trade Union Confederation (EATUC), urged economies to be formalized and more human-centred. Ms. Grace Suh, Vice President, Education and Skills, IBM, called for public private partnerships to seize opportunities provided by the digital revolution, particularly by focusing on upskilling and reskilling to prepare workers for the future.

Participants affirmed that a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic would require adapting national plans to promote a job-rich recovery, a whole-of-government approach and policies targeting the quantity and quality of jobs. Efforts should be underpinned by a productive transformation, based on strategic interactions between public agencies and private sectors. It was also essential to have a broad and open participatory approach to policy implementation, involving social dialogue and support from stakeholders. Continued investments in infrastructure, productive capacities and labour market institutions were needed. The LDC5 Conference, provided an opportunity to prioritize policies that foster green, inclusive and equitable growth to help meet the development objectives of LDCs.


• Expand international assistance and cooperation to provide emergency financial assistance, i.e. debt suspensions, to redirect resources for relief to the most vulnerable groups;
• Utilize limited fiscal space to invest in health, employment and social protection as a means to restarting economies, stabilizing labour markets and creating new jobs;
• Expand existing cash transfers schemes, in-kind support and other transfers to vulnerable households and workers including in the informal economy, to set the foundations for social protection floors providing a minimum set of basic guarantees, with participatory mechanisms for design and accountability;
• Develop strong and well-run national employment policies, with close coordination across government agencies, reliable labour market information to facilitate monitoring of progress, and social dialogue to ensure accountability;
• Extend grants, loan guarantees and financial support to businesses, targeting MSMEs and most-affected sectors (e.g. tourism);
• Promote public and private investments in infrastructure, skills development, innovation and new and growing sectors, e.g. shift to green technologies, digital economy;
• Invest in health and care services to create jobs and address gender inequalities;
• Promote employment-intensive public employment programmes (PEPs) and hiring subsidies to support those hard hit by the crisis (youth, women);
• Reshape skills development systems and address key skills gaps due to changes in demand and the digital revolution;
• Invest in labour market institutions, including minimum wages, employment protection and strengthened employment services;
• Enable productive transformation through strategic interactions between public agencies and the private sector, with labour market programmes, employment services and training and financial institutions as key facilitators;
• Enhance tax collection and broaden the tax base (including through formalization of informal businesses;
• Support investment promotion agencies to strengthen the link between business and governments in order to promote and facilitate investments, particularly in value added sectors to build back better and create decent work;
• Expand participation in regional trade networks and supply chains;
• Promote business environment reforms and measures to improve productivity and working conditions in MSME, including for those in the informal economy;
• Support solutions based PPPs that promote technology and AI to usher in a more inclusive future of work in LDCs;