Structural Impact of COVID-19 on the World of Work

How a pandemic is not just a threat to public health

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a crisis like this generation had never seen before. Everyone was and continues to be affected in aspects of their private or professional lives. For some people it may feel like we are back to normal, others may say the pandemic is far from over. But the pandemic was – or is – not only a threat to public health. In a previous blog, we reviewed WESO 2023 and issues regarding recent crises. In this blog we will focus specifically on the impact of a public health crisis on the world of work.

WESO 2022 showed some of the problems COVID-19 caused in the world of work, more information is findable at this portal. The problems are widespread, and vary from raised inequality between countries – seen in recovery speed as well as the digital divide – to raised gender-based inequality. It has also become more difficult for young people to build up their career. Furthermore, the composition of employment relationships changed, which risks impairing the quality of working conditions. These changes include reliance on informal self-employment, rise in remote work and trends of temporary work.

According to the ILO, these effects are becoming long-term issues for achieving social justice and decent work. It will require action by governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations and the international community to achieve the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Therefore, the ILO released a Global Call to Action for a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient, in October 2021.

The Global Call to Action states that the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work 2019 with its human-centred approach provides the foundation for a recovery from the crisis that is fully inclusive, sustainable and resilient. Therefore, its implementation should be accelerated. On top of that, to achieve a human-centred recovery, four key pillars must be implemented: inclusive economic growth and employment, protection of all workers, universal social protection and social dialogue. To keep track of developments around COVID-19 and the more recent challenges and crises, the latest edition of the ILO Monitor on the World of Work can be found here

To conclude, COVID-19 taught us that a pandemic is more than a threat to public health. It can cause long-term effects on the world of work that decrease developments around social justice and decent work.

Remarkable ⚠️
Our blogs often focus on global supply chains and their harmful effects. During the pandemic, those harmful effects were also visible. Against that background, we would like to draw your attention to an OECD publication that highlights the key role of supply chains during the pandemic, mentioning their positive influences in the fight against COVID-19. The OECD states that global supply chains proved to be agile and resilient in emergency situations like COVID-19 and therefore played a key role in allowing countries to deal with huge challenges. 


den haag