COVID-19 pandemic and loss of means of livelihood for workers


The International Labour Organization recently announced that over 1.6 billion persons are likely to lose their means of livelihood because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Such persons would include workers from the industries, small and medium enterprises and the self- employed.
The concern is that the COVID-19, in many cases may, manifest itself in humans without even showing symptoms of the disease. Not observing Social Distancing, even when not showing symptoms of the disease, may be conducive to the spreading of the disease. In the Industrial scene, factories employing large number of workers where many workers work in close proximity to one another, may be prone to “person to person” transmission of the disease.“Overcrowding” in a workplace would certainly increase the possibility of the transmission of the virus. Regarding work in factories,the Factories Act of 1951 which is in force, has stipulations in Section 11, regarding avoidance of “Overcrowding”.
The big labour intensive factories will have to “thin down” their work force to avoid overcrowding so as to facilitate “Social Distancing” in an effort to control spreading of the coronavirus. Thus they may “shed” many workers resulting in the workers losing their means of livelihood.
Work places of micro, small and medium enterprises would probably fare better in terms of avoiding the spread of the coronavirus as the number of employees would be small, and hence Social Distancing would be more feasible. However this could only be possible if the “Micro” and “ Small Industries” don’t cramp their workers into small work rooms.
The “Self-employed” who would lose their means of livelihood would include mostly service workers who support the Industrial and Business Establishments as well as the Self- employed workers particularly in the Tourism Industry. As for the Self-employed Professionals, the general affordability and demand for their services would be a factor affecting their means of livelihood.
“Workers” in the Agriculture, Fishery and Livestock Breeding Sector, would be less prone to transmitting of the Covid-19 Virus. The “Workplace” in these Sectors are mostly “Wide Open Spaces” and Social Distancing will be less problematic and hence there will be less likelihood of spreading the coronavirus. For Myanmar which is primarily an agricultural country, it is perhaps better at this juncture to further promote and expand the Agriculture Sector. The workers now being “shed” from the Industrial Sector would probably return to their “villages” and be absorbed, to an extent, in Agriculture and it’s allied occupations.
Industries around the World, particularly in mass manufacturing, would scale down their production resulting in reduction of consumer goods including food products. This situation would increase demand for agricultural “food items” including cereals,pulses and beans, fruits and vegetables, fish and shrimp, poultry and meat and so on. Such a situation could be “favourable” to Myanmar as its economy is still largely Agro-based and it could be a “food supplier” in the region. In fact, recently the newspapers carried a news item which said that an Asian country had asked Myanmar to supply around ten items of “ basic foods”of agriculture origin.
Hence Myanmar as of now, perhaps should encourage more investment in the Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Breeding Sectors to meet its food needs as well as export, in the future,food items to other countries. Also the workers in these sectors would be less likely to lose their means of livelihood because of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
With Charity to all and Malice to none.

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