Imran Khan pleads the case for labourers worldwide

Addressing a virtual summit of the International Labour Organization, Pakistan's Prime Minister calls for a global strategy to protects labourers worldwide. He exemplified this statement by his own government's prioritising of labourers, and showcased the novel Ehsaas Cash Disbursement Programme. He said that it's now or never for the global community to wake up to the plight of labourers amid lockdowns.

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Pakistan’s prime minister on Wednesday said coronavirus restrictions have badly impacted the labor class, urging for an urgent global strategy to protect them. Imran Khan made these comments at a virtual summit of the ILO.

Addressing the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) virtual summit on COVID-19 and the World of Work, Imran Khan said the crisis created by COVID-19 has left millions of workers unemployed.

Imran Khan calls for global strategy for labourers at ILO summit

“Though the host countries are also faced with many problems owing to the coronavirus, we need to convince them to be more sympathetic to these labourers,” he added.

Imran emphasised that the lockdown has hit these labourers the most.

Read more: Ehsaas Emergency Cash payment distributed to 1 crore families

“The future is very uncertain, as we do not know how long the economy will take to recover from the impacts of the pandemic,” he stated, adding that till vaccines are found the world community will need to share their experiences and exchange ideas to protect the vulnerable groups.

“We do not know how long the economy will take to recover but we need to formulate a combined strategy to protect the labor community,” he said.

He said many countries, including Pakistan, depend on foreign remittances by citizens based overseas, whose jobs are uncertain now.

Imran Khan wants ILO to compel sympathetic behaviour toward labourers

Sharing the initial lockdown experience of Pakistan, the premier said it rendered daily-wage earners and labourers unemployed.

“I would suggest the ILO and other organizations to convince the host countries to be more sympathetic to these laborers, and give them opportunities to continue,” he said.

Elaborating Pakistan’s strategy to stem the virus’s spread, Khan said his country opted for a “smart lockdown” that allowed several sectors, including construction, to continue activities.

Read more: Smart lockdowns in Pakistan: making them smarter

Imran also shed light on the Ehsaas Programme under which the government is providing cash assistance to labourers after completing their registration process.

He said his government provided cash assistance to millions of poor families which suffered from the virus fallout initially.

“It is the first time in Pakistan’s history that such huge money was disbursed in such a short space of time,” he said stressing that this saved the country from the worst effects of the lockdown.

“Never in the country’s history was so much money transferred to so many people in a short time,” he remarked. “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.”

In April, Pakistan launched Ehsas (care) Emergency Cash Program to provide financial assistance of PKR12,000 ($75) each to some 12 million families affected by the crisis.

PM says ‘praying for vaccine’ but also worried about economy

The prime minister continued, “No one is sure when the coronavirus will end. We are all praying a vaccine comes out for the virus soon, but, meanwhile, uncertainty prevails.”

“The small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the most affected by the virus and these employ the most number of labourers, which is why we need to come up with the idea to solve their issues,” he said.

Speaking about the overseas labourers, the prime minister said a collective strategy is 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.

Read more: COVID-19 in Pakistan: Why is the opposition blaming PM Imran Khan?

“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,” he said. “The exchange of ideas will, I’m sure, help us to solve our problems.”

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.

GVS News Desk with additional input by other sources