Remarks by Angel Gurría
23 April 2020
(As prepared for delivery)
COVID-19 has taken a terrible human toll and brought our globalised economy to a near standstill. The OECD estimates a loss of 2 percentage points in this year’s GDP growth, per every month of confinement. The pandemic became an economic crisis and will have long-lasting impacts in our labour markets, and in our social fabric.
The G20 called on the OECD and the ILO to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on employment. Early evidence points to an unprecedented rise in open unemployment and under-employment. In France, for example, more than one half of workers in the private sector have been moved to chômage partiel. And in Germany, Kurzarbeit claims have increased 20 times more in recent weeks than the largest increase during the great financial crisis. In the United States there have been over 20 million new unemployment benefits claims in 4 weeks. In emerging economies the impact will be larger, considering the high level of informality, and the precariousness of health and social protection systems.
The hardest hit are those who were already disadvantaged: low-skilled workers, those with non-standard or informal jobs, as well as women and youth. Women are disproportionately represented in the healthcare workforce and face additional family responsibilities at home. Unacceptably, they also face increased risk of domestic violence.
Young people are being hard-hit by job losses and younger cohorts will find it even harder to enter the labour market. The experience of the Great Financial Crisis shows that they risk permanent scarring in their long-term career prospects. The COVID-19 crisis thus endangers our progress on critical G20 targets: the Brisbane growth and gender targets and the Antalya youth targets. We must work together to remain on track.
It is heartening to see that you have taken measures of the same scale of the crisis, with your unprecedented actions to attenuate the impact of the virus. To boost the recovery, many of the support measures will need to stay on for longer, even after the health emergency disappears, and we will have to adapt such measures to national circumstances.
In the long term, the crisis should lead us to reflect on how we can build more resilient and effective social protection systems. This is not only about advanced economies. We should also think about the devastating consequences the virus can have in developing countries and offer support to stop it through more generous ODA and Debt Relief. To be better prepared for any future shock, our actions must focus on preparedness and resilience, with people at the center.
The OECD stands ready to continue to support your countries’ efforts and the G20 presidency at this uniquely difficult moment.