Friday, March 24, 2023

Key workers in pandemic continue to suffer worse working conditions

Toilets, cashiers, transporters and other essential workers who gained prominence during covid-19 continue to suffer worse employment conditions than average, denounced this Wednesday the International Labor Organization (ILO), which calls for better remuneration, hours and social protection for they.

In a report on these key sectors, presented at a press conference by the Geneva-based organization, it is revealed that 29% of its workers are underpaid (that is, they earn a salary of less than two thirds of the average), and that on average they earn 26% less than other employees.

Seasonality and long hours

In addition, almost one in three essential workers has a temporary contract (a proportion that rises to 46% in the food industry) and also 46% of them, in developing countries, have excessively long hours, of more than 48 weekly hours, especially in the transport sector.

“Valuing key workers means ensuring that they receive adequate wages and that they work in good conditions,” ILO Director-General Gilbet Houngbo said when the study was launched.

The ILO divides this type of work into eight categories: sanitation, food systems, retail trade, security, cleaning and sanitation, transportation, manual occupations, and other technical and administrative trades.

“Health care workers, supermarket cashiers, delivery men, postal workers, seafarers, cleaners and others continued to perform their jobs, day after day, at the height of the pandemic, often at great personal risk,” Houngbo recalled.

The hardest hit by the virus were not the toilets

The study indicates that these workers generally suffered higher than average mortality rates, due to their greater exposure to the virus, although within the eight categories it was not the health sector -where prevention measures were greater- that had the highest figures. , but those of carriers and cleaners.

On the other hand, the report underlines that during the health crisis, verbal incidence and threats to these key workers increased, especially in the field of retail trade, according to data collected in the United States and several European countries.

The ILO warns that keeping these workers in poor working conditions puts a country’s economic and social resilience at risk in the face of present and future crises, so it encourages governments to invest more in food systems, health care and other key sectors in those who perform

It also urges to reduce the salary gap between these employees and the rest, to guarantee them “safe and predictable work schedules”, and to increase their access to training.

The study, carried out with data from 90 countries, indicates that 52% of total jobs are performed by these key workers, although this percentage drops to 34% in the most developed economies.

Women, very present in health and commerce

Women represent 38% of these workers, although their percentage varies greatly between sectors such as health (where they are 66.3%) and retail trade (58.4%) and the rest, where they are a minority (less than 3% in transportation and 12.4% in security).

The ILO warns that in the cleaning and security sector many of these jobs are outsourced, something that increasingly affects the health environment as well, noting that almost 60% of key workers in low- and middle-income countries lack protection social.

“The covid pandemic has revealed the importance of key workers for society as a whole, whether in times of crisis or prosperity, and how undervalued most key positions are,” summarizes the ILO in its report .


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