Imran calls for global strategy to help workers amid pandemic

Updated 09 Jul 2020

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PM Imran Khan highlights Pakistan’s smart lockdown policy with welfare plan to lessen Covid-19 impact. — DawnNewsTV/File
PM Imran Khan highlights Pakistan’s smart lockdown policy with welfare plan to lessen Covid-19 impact. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged the international community to devise a joint strategy to support workers and lessen the impact of novel coronavirus on the most vulnerable labour community across the world.

“The most vulnerable section of society is labourers. We need a joint strategy to support labourers,” the prime minister said while addressing a virtual Global Summit on ‘Covid-19 and the World of Work’, organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

“Constant exchange of ideas between states will help labourers during pandemic,” he told the gathering of world leaders and heads of top world organisations via video link here from his office.

The five-day ILO Global Summit became the largest-ever online gathering of workers, employers and governments that discussed on how to address the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

Highlights Pakistan’s smart lockdown policy with welfare plan to lessen Covid-19 impact

The premier highlighted the need for comity of nations to have a “combined strategy” to help vulnerable communities amid the pandemic.

About Pakistan efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, PM Khan said lockdowns enforced by almost every country of the world had deprived daily wage earners and labourers of their jobs and livelihoods. “Similarly when we enforced a lockdown, the vulnerable people, labourers became unemployed and had no way to feed their families,” he added.

Keeping their miseries in view due to the countrywide lockdown, Pakistan came up with the ‘smart lockdown’ strategy under which only the identified hotspots were locked down for a specific period to help contain the spread of the virus on the one side and allowing people of other areas to earn their livelihoods by taking the recommended precautionary measures.

Highlighting the government’s Ehsaas cash distribution programme, PM Khan said that timely distribution of money among the deserving families helped mitigate the sufferings of the working class and less privileged. “We also decided we need to transfer cash to labourers,” he said, adding that under a system the vulnerable segments had been given cash. “Besides, we also opened some essential businesses and industries like construction industry and agriculture where workers and labourers resume their jobs and earn for their families,” the prime minister explained.

SMEs filed for bankruptcy

He said Small and Medium Enterprises, which employed most labourers, were the most vulnerable to the adverse impact of the pandemic. “Small and medium industries — which employ the most people — are the most vulnerable and a large number of them have filed for bankruptcy,” he added.

The prime minister urged the world community to share information on their strategies to deal with the highly contagious virus, expressing the hope that the “constant exchange of ideas will help soften the impact on labourers”.

He said the entire world was praying for a vaccine but “uncertainty prevails” in the meantime for which countries need to adopt a joint strategy to protect labourers.

Mr Khan said the world community also needed to have a strategy to convince governments to be more sympathetic to the migrant and overseas labourers. Also Pakistan’s remittances had dropped with a large number of Pakistani workers and labourers losing their jobs. “Countries where foreign labourers are working should consider their sufferings and help them,” he demanded.

Mr Khan also feared slowdown in agricultural sector leading to food crisis, adds APP.

However, he mentioned that the construction sector in Pakistan was opened fairly quickly.

In the neighbouring India, he said, strict ‘curfew-like’ lockdown pushed millions below poverty line.

He said his government through its social welfare programme approached the registered deserving families and disbursed among them financial assistance for livelihood, making the largest ever transaction in country’s history in a short span of time.

He lauded the initiative of ILO Global Summit for “being held at a critical juncture and offering a platform for countries to learn from each other’s experiences of dealing with the pandemic.” He termed the conference a beginning towards finding of solutions and expressed the hope that constant exchange of ideas would help mitigate the sufferings of labourers across the world, adds APP.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2020