Investing in job-rich growth, social protection and a just transition to a net-zero emissions future, particularly in low -and middle-income countries, could prevent a further deepening of the inequalities between developed and developing economies that have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, in a policy brief issued on Tuesday.

At least $982 billion in fiscal stimulus measures is needed to respond to the immediate labour market shocks of the crisis and to support a just transition, as well as $1.2 trillion annually for social protection floors in low- and middle-income countries.

No advanced economy has achieved economic and social progress without investing in social protection systems and quality public services that provide people with the necessary support to navigate the vicissitudes of their lives.

While the wealth of billionaires increased by over $3.9 trillion between March and December 2020, the impact of the pandemic on the world of work, among other factors, increased the number of extremely poor by between 119 and 224 million people - the first increase in poverty in over 21 years.

An estimated 8.8 per cent of total working hours - equivalent to the hours worked in one year by 255 million full-time workers - were lost in 2020.

This corresponds to a loss of $3.3 trillion in labour income before government support.

Because of the pandemic, there are an estimated 75 million fewer jobs in 2021 than there were before the crisis, and 23 million fewer projected in 2022.

The secretary-general's brief calls for urgent investments in a job-rich, sustainable and socially inclusive recovery. The public and private sectors should leverage finance to significantly ramp up such investments to get the world back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to address ever increasing risks from climate change and environmental degradation that could jeopardise 1.2 billion jobs - equivalent to 40 per cent of the global labour force.

A human-centred recovery from the pandemic needs employment and social protection policies to work in tandem, not only to improve people's living standards, but also to help them navigate the challenges of a rapidly changing world of work and the transition towards the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

To achieve a job-rich recovery and a just transition to a sustainable and inclusive economy, the secretary-general is calling for a global accelerator for jobs and social protection that would create at least 400 million jobs and extend social protection to four billion women, men and children currently without coverage.

To achieve this goal, the policy brief titled 'Investing in Jobs and Social Protection for Poverty Eradication and a Sustainable Recovery' recommends several actions.

This includes developing integrated national and inclusive recovery strategies for decent job creation, especially in the care and green sectors, universal social protection, and a just transition, and ensuring they are aligned with macro-economic and fiscal policies and underpinned by sound data; expanding investment in social protection floors as a percentage of GDP in national budgets; designing policy measures to extend social protection to workers in the informal economy, and to foster the progressive formalisation of enterprises and employment, including in the care economy.

It also suggests creating active labour market policies to help workers upskill and re-skill to keep or change their job, adapt to the green and digital transitions; developing a sound financial architecture to mobilise investments for decent jobs, social protection, and a just transition, including by channelling SDRs to support national recovery strategies to countries in need; strengthening collaboration with the private sector to scale-up investments in strategic sectors to promote entrepreneurship, effectively reaching women and women-owned enterprises in particular, to close the skills gap.

Moreover, the brief recommends aligning strategies with the Paris Climate Accords, so that they support enterprises and workers, while also ensuring that vulnerable populations are not left behind in the transition to net-zero carbon emissions economies.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 30 2021, of The Himalayan Times.