World employment and social outlook 2023: the value of essential work

Essential workers who kept families, societies and economies going while the world was on COVID lockdown, need better pay and conditions urgently, if countries are to future-proof themselves from the next global crisis, UN labour experts said in this report.

At the end of March 2020, 80% of the world’s population lived in countries with required workplace closures. At the same time, in the hushed streets of cities and towns throughout the world, key workers left the safety of their homes to go to work. Across the world, these workers produced, distributed and sold food, cleaned streets and buses to minimize the spread of the pandemic, ensured public safety, transported essential goods and workers to their jobs, and cared for and healed the sick. These are the key workers. The COVID-19 pandemic has made evident the extent to which societies need key workers – in both good times and bad – but also how undervalued most key jobs are, raising concerns about the sustainability of these essential activities, especially given the possibility of future shocks. This report calls for a revaluation of the work of key workers to reflect their social contribution and greater investment in key sectors.

Related Content