Unity and solidarity are key themes of the Saudi G20 presidency as it works to overcome the effects of COVID-19 and ensure a sustainable recovery in all areas – including employment
When we had our first meeting of the Employment Working Group under the 2020 Saudi G20 presidency in Jeddah in February, we could not have imagined how our world would change, how our labour markets and societies would be affected, and what unprecedented challenges we would face. The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a shadow across the world and has left an indelible mark on 2020. It has created significant and unprecedented challenges for all countries.
Against this global backdrop, with its many complexities and challenges, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has continued to deliver international leadership, through its G20 presidency, to help overcome this crisis. The urgency of the global situation requires agile leadership to ensure that the G20 policy priorities continue to reflect the global reality, uniting all G20 members on the goal of mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on our economies, societies and labour markets.
To address this crisis, G20 leaders responded to His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s call for an Extraordinary Summit on 26 March 2020. Here, leaders committed to do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic, including protecting lives, safeguarding jobs, restoring confidence, maintaining financial stability, minimising disruptions to trade and global supply chains, and helping all countries in need of assistance.
On 23 April, the G20 labour and employment ministers followed up on the leaders’ summit. They committed to continue to work together to develop and implement comprehensive, effective measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on societies and on domestic and global labour markets.
Fighting and overcoming the pandemic remains our highest and overriding priority. This cannot be achieved solely by the G20 governments alone. Social dialogue is critically important. Thus, we widened the discussions to include five G20 engagement groups – Business 20, Civil 20, Labour 20, Women 20 and Youth 20 – and worked closely with international organisations, mainly the International Labour Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the World Bank Group.
Coordinated efforts worldwide
Our coordinated international efforts culminated in the G20 labour and employment ministers’ meeting on 10 September, where we worked to provide practical support and great comfort to hundreds of millions of people when they need it most. We led discussions on how to ensure that workers’ rights are respected and that social protection systems provide access to adequate support for all, reflecting the impact of COVID-19 on our social protection systems. Furthermore, because workers’ employment status has significant implications, correct classifications will help support the creation of regulations and policies to reduce social protection gaps, help minimise worker exploitation and ensure fair support from employers. We agreed to continue working individually and collaboratively to achieve this goal through enhanced coordination and international efforts.
The effect on youth
The pandemic has disproportionately affected youth, in particular young women, through the loss of jobs, education and training opportunities, economic hardship and potential damage to their long-term job and career prospects. The Saudi presidency introduced the G20 Youth Roadmap 2025 to improve the labour market prospects of young people and to achieve the G20 Antalya youth goal to reduce the share of young people most at risk of being permanently left behind in the labour market by 15% by 2025.
Women’s employment is a cross-cutting theme of the Saudi presidency’s agenda. As labour and employment ministers, we reaffirmed our commitment to meet the goal agreed on in Brisbane in 2014 by “reducing the gender gap in the participation rates between women and men in our countries by 25% by 2025”. More efforts are still necessary, including increasing the quality of women’s employment.
The Saudi G20 presidency announced the establishment of the Behavioral Insights Knowledge Exchange Network, facilitated by the creation and operation of the Riyadh Behavioral Insight Center for Labor Market Policies. This facility will be funded and operated by Saudi Arabia on behalf of the G20 members and co-chaired with Canada. This centre will recognise the value of scientific inquiry and technology in evidence-based decision-making, support the sharing of knowledge and experience on behavioural insights, and provide great benefits to our countries.
Under the Saudi presidency, G20 members have joined together in unity and in a spirit of solidarity, recognising our responsibility to safeguard and promote the interests not only of G20 populations, but also the people beyond our own borders, during these times of unprecedented global challenge.
Unity among the G20 members will help overcome the effects of COVID-19 and ensure sustainable medium and long-term recovery. We look forward to working closely with Italy when it assumes the G20 presidency for 2021.