ISLAMABAD—Prime Minister Imran Khan delivered a keynote address at a special session of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and stressed that a joint strategy is needed to protect the labour class, Dunya News reported on Wednesday.
The premier said, “[During the COVID-19 lockdown] we did not stop any workers in the agricultural area because of course then we would have had a huge food crisis. Construction activity which employs most amount of workers in our cities, we opened it up fairly quickly.
“On top of it, we decided that we needed to transfer cash to this informal part of our labour, which there was no registration. Those who were registered, we asked the employers to keep them employed, we compensated for them.
“The ones who weren’t registered, we set up the system of people registering with our Ehsaas programme through which we distributed money. We had desks everywhere, people were registering there, we had them checked.
“In Pakistan’s history, never was so much money transferred to so many people in such a short space of time. That saved us from some of the worst aspects of the lockdown.
“For instance we saw what was happening in India. India did the opposite. They went for a curfew almost and they had huge problems. Millions and millions of migrant workers were just left stranded. Because of this very strict lockdown, their poverty rates are gone up.
“Having said this, the future is very uncertain. We don’t know how long the economy will take to recover from the impact of this lockdown. No one is sure right now where we are headed.
“We are all prying some vaccine comes out as a cure to this virus but in the meantime this uncertainty prevails.
“The most vulnerable section of our society remains our labour, and that’s why the summit is extremely important. We need to share ideas. We need to have some sort of joint strategy on protecting our labour class.
“[…] the small and medium industry which employs the highest number of people is the most vulnerable. In fact, the most bankruptcies are in the small and medium industry, and that’s why we need some sort of strategy.
“Our second problem is of course workers who are working abroad. This country depends upon their remittances. Not just Pakistan, I know lot of other countries depend upon the remittances of their labour working abroad.
“Mr Guy Ryder, we need some strategy of how we can convince these countries to be bit more sympathetic even though we know all countries are facing huge problems right now. We need them to be sympathetic to these labourers.
“Secondly, we need some joint strategy how we can soften the impact on labourers all over the world.
“I thank you again for holding this very important conference at a very critical juncture in history as far as labour is concerned. We would love to share ideas with other people.
“We would like to know what other countries are planning to do, what their experiences are. We will of course keep other countries updated what we are facing and what we feel the way forward is.
“This conference is a beginning I feel. After that, this constant exchange of ideas, I am sure, will help all of us to help our labour. Thank you.”