As part of an OECD Forum series, the virtual event Empowering Workers, Delivering a Jobs-rich Recovery took place on 13 July 2021 —watch the replay below!
Prospects for the world economy have brightened. The recent OECD Economic Outlook projected that GDP in OECD countries is expected to rise by 5.25% this year, the fastest growth in nearly half a century, though still only a return to 2019 levels. The projected growth is 6.9% for the United States.
The latest OECD Employment Outlook highlights that the situation in labour markets has also improved considerably, though not completely. The OECD-wide unemployment rate stood at 6.6% in May 2021, down from 8.8% a year before. In March 2021 hours worked were on average still 5.5% below the level reached in December 2019, but up from a slump of over 15% in the early months of the pandemic.
Read the latest OECD Employment Outlook 2021: Navigating the COVID-19 crisis and recovery and check out the digital report for facts, data, resources and more
In the United States, the unemployment rate is down 9 percentage points from almost 15% reached early in the pandemic. By March 2021 total hours worked in the United States had also largely recovered much of the ground lost. These trends highlight the policy path the United States took compared to other OECD countries to manage the COVID crisis. The United States relied heavily on (often temporary) lay-offs and enhanced unemployment benefits to reduce working time, while many other OECD countries relied on job retention schemes, which reduced hours but kept workers connected to jobs.
Across countries, the pandemic has particularly affected those most vulnerable in labour markets—including those in low-paying or temporary jobs, the low-skilled, women and young people. Public support has been broadly successful in protecting livelihoods, but labour market attachment among these groups has fallen. The United States, for example, experienced one of the largest increases in youth unemployment amongst OECD countries, with unemployment rate peaking at over 27% before settling at the current rate of over 9%.
Bringing the virus under control, with public health measures and by getting the world vaccinated, is essential to the recovery. We need more jabs for more jobs. As governments roll out their recovery plans, it is also essential to continue supporting people most in need while providing incentives for job creation and better targeting support measures towards firms and jobs that have a viable future in the new post-COVID environment.
Countries have been committing unprecedented resources for the recovery. The American Rescue Plan has provided much needed support to deliver immediate relief to families and accelerate the recovery, while the European Union is borrowing on behalf of its member countries for the first time to support often large national recovery and resilience plans. As the 2021 OECD Employment Outlook highlights, these recovery plans present an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address the key structural issues facing labour markets, including the digital and green transitions. This includes providing individualised support to help people reconnect to job opportunities. Countries need to invest in effective upskilling and reskilling programmes to help businesses, start-ups and workers transition to occupations and sectors with high growth potential. Finally, recovery plans need to address long-standing gaps in social protection, providing targeted as well as more systematic support.
Social partners will be critical to these efforts. In several countries, employers’ organisations and trade unions responded swiftly to the challenges raised by COVID-19, providing tailored and timely solutions to protect workers from COVID-19 and ensuring the continuity of many businesses. OECD work highlights the importance of effective collective bargaining and social dialogue in fostering inclusive and dynamic labour markets and enhancing job quality.
15:00 Introduction to the session, speakers & moderation
Anthony Gooch, Director, OECD Forum
Mathias Cormann, Secretary-General, OECD
Martin J. Walsh, U.S. Secretary of Labor
15:25: Presentation of the Employment Outlook
Stefano Scarpetta, Director, Labour, Employment and Social Affairs, OECD
15:35: Panel discussion
Jacques van den Broek, CEO, Randstad
Justina Nixon, Vice-President and Global Head, Corporate Social Responsibility, IBM (tbc)
Frances O'Grady, General Secretary, TUC
Manpreet Deol, Member, OECD Youthwise
|Future of Education & Skills
|Future of Work
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