Be it traffic, trade, investment, or finance, everything has been severely disrupted due to the spread of Covid-19, impacting the world economy, resulting in massive reductions in output and, as a result, loss of jobs. The attempt of containing the virus is like contributing to a global recession.
Unemployment is a common challenge facing all countries due to economic stagnation; people all over the world are exposed and vulnerable to loss of jobs, especially in developing countries.
Therefore, the unprecedented health and economic crisis stirred the international business community and they called upon world leaders to safeguard measures so that the rampant increase in unemployment can be avoided. It is suggesting an urgent scale-up of social protections that include deferment of credit repayments, payment of a daily allowance, and other liabilities for those affected badly.
Governments around the globe are trying to strike a balance between saving lives and ‘flatten the curve’ of infections; some like the US and UK have already passed specific legislations, other countries are following them and implementing various policies to address risks associated with health and economic issues rising from the pandemic.
Health measures are restricted social isolation, lockdowns and curfews to limit virus transmission. Whereas, economic measures are stabilizing the economy in general and also moving towards modification or increase of unemployment benefits to mitigate human sufferings, to some extent.
In the case of Pakistan, responses ranging from fiscal to monetary and financial sectors, including suspending duties on health equipment imports, relief to daily wagers, cash transfers to low-class families
Some other measures by the State Bank include a temporary refinance scheme for wages and salaries to employees of businesses that are continuously working.
However, all these policy measures are ad hoc and are for temporary relief; countries like Pakistan need to take a long-term view and advances to deal with the rising crises.
As far as unemployment is concerned, Pakistan is required to promote economic and social well-being of the people, and the state is also required to “provide basic necessities of life … for all such citizens … as are permanently or temporarily unable to earn their livelihood on account of infirmity, sickness or unemployment”.
Unfortunately, Pakistan does not have an employment policy in compliance with this constitutional mandate, it’s the right time to formulate one to promote full employment using unemployment benefits, job guarantee programs and other various insurance and compensation schemes.
For developing countries, public health is not only subject to work on in this emergency situation, unemployment is also harmful – some say, it’s as harmful as Covid-19.
Given the exacerbated unemployment situation, Pakistan should exercise possible effort to tackle unemployment, not temporarily or philanthropically, but on a long-run basis to overcome the current crisis.