The Impact of COVID-19 on Labor Market and Policy Responses: Strengthening Social Protection for Vulnerable Workers
MARCH 9, 2022
As labor problems become more universal with the advance of globalization in recent years, there is a growing need for international comparative research in the formulation of labor policy. It was with this in mind that the Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training (JILPT) held “the 5th JILPT Tokyo Comparative Labor Policy Seminar” online on March 9, 2022. The aim of the Seminar was to provide an opportunity for researchers from major countries and regions, particularly the Asia Pacific, and conduct a comparative examination of their challenges.
The 5th Tokyo seminar discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on labor markets in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as employment policy responses that focused on job retention schemes.
The Seminar started with two keynote lectures delivered by Prof. María Emilia Casas Baamonde, President of the International Society for Labour and Social Security Law (ISLSSL), and Dr. Stéphane Carcillo, Head of Jobs and Income Division, Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, OECD. In the following two sessions chaired by Prof. Yanfei Zhou, Japan Women’s University, and Prof. Chikako KANKI, the University of Tokyo, ten researchers from Japan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, China, Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Taiwan made presentations on the impact of COVID-19 on the labor market, policy responses by the government, and future direction of labor policy in respective countries. Prof. Takashi Araki, the University of Tokyo, moderated the concluding session.
Through the seminar discussions, it was noted that Covid-19 revealed two types of vulnerable workers. First, workers who have lost their employment and working hours and thereby their income. This was particularly true of non-regular, informal, women, youth and foreign workers, who are often not covered by the protection measures offered by the government. The second type of vulnerable workers is those who are forced to provide labor in person and work long hours even under the COVID-19 pandemic, such as essential workers. They were exposed to the risk of contracting COVID-19 and of overworking and stress. The current pandemic has also revealed new social divisions, such as K-shaped recovery and the division between white-collar workers who can work remotely and essential workers who cannot. These new challenges cannot be addressed by labor policy alone. As suggested by many country reports, we need a comprehensive and coordinated policy approach, including industrial, tax, and social security policy.
The Covid-19 pandemic posed common policy challenges to most countries represented. However, the policy responses to the challenges are still developing and seeking the most appropriate approach considering the labor market situation, employment practices, and industrial relations in the respective countries.
With the insightful keynote lectures by ISLSSL President Baamonde and Dr. Carcillo of the OECD, excellent presentations from 10 Asian countries, and outstanding comments by two chairpersons, the 5th Tokyo Comparative Labor Policy Seminar successfully provided rich comparative insights and policy suggestions for the future to strengthen social protection for the vulnerable in turbulent times.