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Unemployment Spirals Due To Covid-19 Outbreak

Source: Vientiane Times

The perennial challenge of unemployment in Laos has been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 outbreak as large numbers of people have been laid off from their jobs.

This has caused the unemployment rate to surge from the normal average of 2 percent to 25 percent at present. The unemployment rate measures the number of people actively looking for a job.

Many businesses ceased operation during the recent lockdown and some are still shuttered. These include processing and garment factories, construction material manufacturers, restaurants, shops, and businesses operating within and outside of special and specific economic zones.

This information was relayed by the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Dr Khampheng Saysompheng, on Thursday when speaking at a meeting of Asean labour ministers on the response to the impact of Covid-19 on labour and employment.

Although Laos has recorded only 19 confirmed cases of the virus, the risk of a widespread and severe outbreak still exists. Against this backdrop, the government has laid out measures to prevent the spread of the virus as specified in Prime Minister’s Order No. 6 on increasing prevention and control measures and comprehensive preparedness to deal with Covid-19.

The global pandemic has severely impacted the economies of many counties, including Laos.

In addition to prevention and control measures, the government has introduced short- and long-term policies aimed at minimising the damage caused to the economy. This is intended to help businesses, especially small and medium enterprises, to continue their operations and drive the economy forward.

The ministerial meeting discussed efforts to ensure that all workers, including migrant workers, those laid off or furloughed by employers affected by the pandemic, are compensated appropriately by their employers and receive social assistance or unemployment benefits from the government where appropriate, in line with the laws, regulations and policies of respective Asean Member States.

It was agreed to help all workers infected with the virus to access essential healthcare and other medical support as necessary, and to prevent discrimination against infected workers.

The meeting also resolved to use digital technology for communication and consultation media amidst temporary restrictions of movement, so as to further regional cooperation and national responses to the impact of the pandemic on labour and employment.

Meeting participants agreed on the need to provide assistance to Asean migrant workers affected by the pandemic in each other’s country or in third countries. This includes effective implementation of the Asean Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, working towards their health, well-being and safety, as well as facilitating their movement and reuniting them with their families.

It was also agreed to further strengthen the effectiveness of active labour market policies at national and regional levels, occupational safety and health standards, and social protection systems through productive and harmonious social dialogue to retain employment, reduce the vulnerabilities of at-risk workers, and improve their resilience.