ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday called upon the world leaders to adopt a joint strategy to protect the vulnerable segments of the society especially the labourers from the impacts of COVID-19.
Addressing an online ILO Global Summit on COVID-19 and the World of Work, the Prime Minister said the labour class had been the most impacted due to the pandemic and the lockdowns imposed around the world to contain it.
“This is what makes this summit so important,” added the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister pointed out that many countries including Pakistan depended upon remittances sent by the overseas workers.
Imran Khan emphasized that the lockdown had hit the labour community the most. He said the future was very uncertain as no one was sure how long the economy would take to recover from the effect of the pandemic.
“We are praying that vaccines come out as a cure to the virus, but in the meantime, we need to share our experiences and exchange ideas to protect our vulnerable groups”, he emphasised.
Sharing the initial lockdown experience of Pakistan, the Prime Minister said it rendered our daily wage workers and labourers unemployed. Hence, he said Pakistan government came up with the idea of smart lockdown under which public gatherings were stopped but we allowed other activities like reopening of construction and agriculture sectors.
Imran Khan said Pakistani government provided cash assistance to the labourers under Ehsaas Program after completing their registration process.
He said it was the first time in Pakistan’s history that such huge money was disbursed in such a short span of time. He said this saved us from the worst effects of the lockdown.
“We decided that the government needed to transfer cash to the informal section of the labour. Those who were registered, we asked the employers to keep them employed. But the ones who were not, we helped them through Ehsaas programme”, he added.
“This saved us from some of the worst aspects of the crisis. Unlike in India, where they imposed a curfew which pushed people into deeper poverty”, he asserted.
He said that the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were the most affected by the virus and these sectors employed the most number of labourers, which was why our government needed to come up with the idea to solve their issues.
Speaking about the overseas labourers, the prime minister said a collective strategy was needed to tell other countries to be sympathetic to these labourers. “We need some joint strategy on how we can ‘soften the impact’ on labourers across the world,” he said.
“We would love to share ideas with the world; we would love to know what other countries are doing. Pakistan will keep other countries updated on the situation and how we intend to move forward. The exchange of ideas will, I’m sure, help us to solve our problems”, he said.
The Prime Minister said though the host countries were also facing many problems due to coronavirus, yet we needed to convince them to be more sympathetic to the labour class.
The five-day ILO Global Summit became the largest-ever online gathering of workers, employers and governments that discussed on how to address the economic and social impacts of the pandemic.
He lauded the initiative of ILO Global Summit Conference for “being held at a critical juncture and offering a platform for countries to learn from each others’ experiences of dealing with the pandemic.”
He termed the conference a beginning towards finding of solutions and expressed hope that constant exchange of ideas would help mitigate the sufferings of the labourers world over.