Reducing COVID-19 Impact for Population and Business: What Are the Measures?

by | Dec 8, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences highly impacted social protection, employment and labour relations and highlighted extreme importance of social policy means, especially for the most vulnerable population and small and medium businesses. In order to mitigate the social impact of a pandemic, to boost economic recovery/labour market and to ensure social protection for all, further reforms would be necessary after the end of the autumn second-wave lock-down/quarantine restrictions in Europe.In this regard, governments are obliged to implement substantial targeted fiscal, social, employment and financial market measures to support affected households and businesses. Changes in social assistance, social insurance, employment, labour law, deferral of taxation and support for business shall be highlighted.Additionally, the state support must be very fast, efficient, simple, relatively short-implemented, and the government must focus on the support for the economy (support for business, employment and labour market) and population (support for the social protection).According to international organisations[1], reforms shall be oriented in two parts:

  • short-term responses (temporary measures, such as: extension of benefits, lump-sum payments, support for employment, quicker access to the social protection, less administrative procedures, special regard to the vulnerable population);
  • long-term solutions, such as strengthening of the health insurance, an extension of the coverage of the social insurance, income guarantees, indexation mechanisms, stimulation for the additional savings, an extension of the pension system, employment measures, higher state support for vulnerable persons, more flexible labour relations with stronger social protection, better social assistance means.

Policies for the economy recovery. The most widely used measures include cash transfers, followed by wage subsidies, subsidized sick leave, and various forms of subsidized social security contributions and unemployment insurance. Changes in labour legislation (particularly, the dismissal during lock-down and remote work) and employment support schemes introduced as well:

  • income support: ensuring additional payments (Turkey, Georgia); providing more generous benefit levels, increasing the coverage of existing cash schemes, enhancing agility by suspending conditionalities (France, United Kingdom and Italy); additional payments (e.g., Turkey, Georgia);
  • assistance for poor population: social assistance programs include support for homeless populations (Spain, France, Turkey);
  • family support: income support in the form of childcare vouchers or allowances (e.g. Italy, Poland);
  • support for utility payments and financial obligations: utility subsidies waiving fees for basic services (Georgia); wavers for loans and other financial obligations (the majority of countries);
  • support for jobs: many countries provide cash benefits to crisis-affected self-employed workers (e.g., Ireland); some countries (e.g., Netherland) are reducing work time among the wage employed, combined with paid sick leave;
  • pensions: eased withdrawal from pension funds (Spain); frozen payments to pension funds of2nd pillar (Estonia); rising of pensions for the vulnerable population (Lithuania);
  • sickness: reducing the administrative time required for sick-leave payments (Sweden, Lithuania, France).
  • e-tools and innovations: enhanced electronic processes for benefits (e.g. Romania, Lithuania, Italy, France); delivery innovations (special support for start-up in Germany);
  • labour law: some countries (e.g., the Netherlands, France) are reducing work time among the wage employed, combined with paid sick leave; partial work time schemes (e.g. France).
  • employment and business support: support for business, especially for small and medium-size and tourism sector (the majority of countries).

Policy responses need to consider four pillars: stimulating the economy and employment; supporting enterprises, jobs and incomes; protecting workers in the workplace; relying on social dialogue for solutions[2].

Sustainability is a key element for the functioning of the effective social protection system. The notion of sustainability may encompass not only financial but social and political sustainability. Public trust and confidence in the design, implementation and operation of the scheme are a major factor contributing to the sustainability of the scheme.

The economic activity of population shall be facilitated through support in the creation and registration and development of the company, support in accessing inexpensive loans, to motivate business representatives, to support the establishment of corporate social responsibility with the purpose of increasing population involvement in their projects and activities. The special attention should be paid to the income-generating support, for the youth education, vocational training and active labour market measures.

 


[1] For example, see Joint Statement on the Role of Social Protection in Responding to the COVID – 19 Pandemic released by SPIAC – B (Social Protection Interagency Cooperation Board) composed of 25 intergovernmental agencies and 10 government bodies: https://www.social-protection.org/gimi/RessourcePDF.action?id=56006

[2] See: https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/documents/briefingnote/wcms_740877.pdf

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