Transcript of the video message by Angel Gurría
8th July 2020 - OECD Paris
Ambassadors, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
I am pleased to address this timely and important Global Summit on COVID-19 and the world of work, and to express the OECD’s support for the ILO’s contributions to the crisis response. This is a project in which we are all partners. Indeed, just yesterday we launched our annual OECD Employment Outlook, and held a Ministerial Roundtable on employment policies for the recovery. Our analysis and recommendations in this area have much in common with those of the ILO.
The first aspect of this is on just how extraordinary the current situation is. We are living through a combined global health and economic crisis the like of which none of us have ever experienced. GDP in OECD countries has fallen by some 15% in the first two quarters of 2020. For the full year – even if a second wave of infections is avoided – we expect global GDP to be 6% lower than in 2019, and the recovery in 2021 will only recoup part of that decline.
This deep recession has already been reflected in the labour market: the OECD-wide unemployment rate rose sharply from 5.2% in February to 8.4% in May. It is expected to increase further to 9.4% by the end of the year, again assuming a single wave of infection, and to fall back only gradually to 7.7% by the end of 2021.
If there is a widespread second wave in late 2020, output and employment outcomes would be even worse: we estimate that the median OECD economy would be at the same level of GDP per capita in 2021 as it was in 2013.
In this sobering context, what needs to be done? The blanket “life support” measures taken by many countries have been essential, but are too costly to be maintained indefinitely. They will have to be progressively adapted to the varying conditions faced by sectors, companies and workers. This means walking a tight-rope between, on the one hand, failing to provide enough support to the many firms and workers still in need, and, on the other, excessively hindering the reallocation of resources required by the crisis. Great skill will be needed.
The OECD Employment Outlook outlines some of the critical decisions to be taken in adapting the policy response; on supporting job creation; on getting people back to work safely; and on supporting the most vulnerable, who are being disproportionately affected.
An OECD survey in April found that low-wage workers were about twice as likely as high-wage workers to have stopped working. They are also often those on the “front line” who put their health at risk to maintain essential services during lockdowns. Workers in non-standard jobs and informal work have also been hit hard by job and income losses, and their hardship is compounded by limited access to unemployment and sickness benefits. We need to provide adequate income support and access to training and employment protection services to these groups.
Young people also risk being victims of this crisis, as they have been before. The global financial crisis destroyed almost one in ten jobs held by people below the age of 30. We must not repeat previous mistakes: we need swift action to ensure no jobless young person goes through this crisis without support.
Finally, to shape a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient future, social dialogue – the 4th pillar in the ILO’s approach to the COVID response – is key. Stronger social dialogue is an essential element of building back better.
The ILO, like the OECD, has much to contribute in shaping the response to the crisis, and there is much that we can do together. Our joint work to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on employment for G20 Leaders is just one example. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the ILO to strive for better policies for better lives in the world of work in the critical period ahead.