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ILO and EBRD joining forces in face of coronavirus pandemic

By Axel  Reiserer

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) are joining forces to respond to the coronavirus crisis in the Western Balkans by advising national policy action to support workers and enterprises.

The ILO Office for Central and Eastern Europe and the EBRD Gender and Economic Inclusion team have established a joint task force to assess the impact of the crisis on the region’s economies by examining the likely short- and medium-term effects on employment and the labour market.

Initial results are expected by early May. The task force will include ILO and EBRD experts as well as senior policy advisors from the region.

A survey on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on firms in the Western Balkans is currently being rolled out and data on how to best assist the private sector will be available shortly.

As a further step the task force will develop policy responses taking into account the measures already announced by each government in the region, with a focus on challenges that have been insufficiently addressed. Governments and social partners may consider these policy options in order to mitigate the impact of the crisis on the labour market.

This task force’s work will be complemented by direct support for initiating an open policy dialogue on the responses that the Western Balkans economies could develop to offset the short- and medium-term impacts of the crisis on employment and the labour market. The knowledge products generated by the task force will serve governments and social partners as they elaborate and assess policy responses aimed at supporting workers, households and enterprises.

“Such a versatile and inclusive approach is of particular importance,” said Heinz Koller, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, “as pandemics tend to magnify existing inequalities. With the intensification of the health crisis, and about 81 per cent of the global workforce living in countries with mandatory or recommended closures, it is important to understand its full implications on economies and societies and, in particular, on the most vulnerable individuals.”

Barbara Rambousek, EBRD Director, Gender and Economic Inclusion, added: “We must stress the importance of providing support to our counties of operations to develop effective and evidence-based policy solutions to ensure an inclusive response that maintains a focus on those that are hardest hit by the crisis.”

Zsuzsanna Hargitai, EBRD Regional Director, Western Balkans, emphasised: “Assisting governments in the region to shape adequate policy responses also supports the recovery of the economy and helps to restart and reboot private enterprises, the engines of growth and job creation in the region.”

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