Working families need more support as novel coronavirus contagion takes hold: UNICEF, ILO, UN Women

Kathmandu, April 1

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its exponential growth, it is essential to support working families to minimise negative consequences for children, UNICEF, ILO and UN Women said in a joint press release issued today.

Job loss, school closures, and unavailability of childcare mean that families, especially those in low-income households, need extra support.

“The fallout from the pandemic — job losses, prolonged stress and a deterioration of mental health — will be felt by families for years to come,” said UNICEF Chief of Early Childhood Development Dr Pia Rebello Britto. “For the most vulnerable children, the absence of adequate social protection systems exacerbates their exposure to the crisis.”

Children below the age of 10 years represent the poorest age subgroup in Nepal, according to the Nepal Multidimensional Poverty Index 2018. “In Nepal, a child’s protection and development is strongly correlated with multiple socio-economic deprivations, including access to services and exposure to violence and exploitation. COVID 19 will further exacerbate these vulnerabilities especially among the poorest and most marginalised households,” said UNICEF Nepa Representative, Elke Wisch. “Now, more than ever, family and child-friendly employment practices in the private and public sectors, as well as social protection measures adapted to this evolving situation,will be critical to protect children and their families from the most detrimental fallout of the pandemic.”

Family-friendly policies and practices, including employment and income protection, paid leave to care for family members, flexible working arrangements and access to quality, emergency childcare can make a critical difference.

They enable workers to protect and care for themselves and their children and enhance workers’ productivity and sense of security.

“The evidence is also mounting that the economic impacts of COVID-19 will affect women more harshly, as more women work in low-paying, insecure and informal jobs,” said Wenny Kusuma, Representative, UN Women Nepal. “We also have an opportunity to ‘unstereotype’ the gender roles that play out in households in many parts of the world and support an equitable division of care and domestic work amongst family members or those residing in the household.”

In Nepal, 90.5 per cent of women in employment are in the informal sector, according to National Labour Force Survey 2017-18. Self-employed, domestic workers, female-headed households, and those in casual or temporary agency employment are at particular risk. Within households too, women bear a disproportionate burden of unpaid care and domestic work, which includes caring for children, the elderly and sick family members.

“It is essential that government, workers and employers in Nepal quickly negotiate solutions which will support business, sustain the impact of this crisis while also protecting workers and their families. Micro enterprises, especially the women entrepreneurs, will require immediate and longerterm support” said Richard Howard, country director, ILO Office in Nepal. “The Covid-19 situation has also highlighted the essential need for government policies and programmes to extend social protection to informal sector workers for their protection against the harsh impact of this and similar other crisis in the future.”

“Social dialogue — consultation and collaboration among governments, workers and employers and their representatives — is essential. If responses are to be effective and sustainable, they have to be built on trust and a wide range of experiences,” said Manuela Tomei, ILO director of the Conditions of Work and Equality Department.