Rebuilding cohesion between workers, employers and state governments will last years after the coronavirus pandemic brutally exposed societal rifts and inequalities, a senior labour leader warned on Tuesday.
“It will take at least a decade and that’s only then if the solutions that generate a new social contract are in place and its inclusive of everybody,” Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), told the World Economic Forum’s online Davos Agenda conference.
“The big challenge is indeed to rebuild trust, because what is at risk here is … the trust that democracies then can put in place that social contract.”
The panel discussion came days after the International Labour Organization found the global job market would take longer to recover than first thought, with unemployment set to remain above pre-COVID-19 levels until at least 2023.
Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for jobs and social rights, took heart from the EU’s response to the pandemic that broke with policy orthodoxy to help protect the most vulnerable.
“We are now about – hopefully – to find an agreement on a framework for minimum wages in the European Union guaranteeing everybody to have a decent wage for the work people do and having decent living conditions. This is a paradigm shift in a way, also for Europe,” he said.
“It’s not about giving everyone a minimum income, it’s about giving people new opportunities, investing in their skills.”
Jonas Prising, head of staffing outfit ManpowerGroup Inc, stressed the need to focus on sustainability as economies reshape themselves.
“Employment security is going to be what facilitates the mobility that we need as we’re shifting and transforming between industries,” he said, noting technological change would create more jobs than it destroys as long as workers got proper skills.
“Everybody is realizing that reducing inequalities should be one of the top priorities of sustainable growth in the mid– and long-run so the two go together, growth and equality and fairness. And equal recovery has to be sustainable through time,” said Spanish Economy Minister Nadia Calvino.
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