Workers in Global Supply Chains

The economic catastrophes of the pandemic are having disproportionate impacts on workers in global supply chains in emerging economies dependent on the production and sale of cheap, export-oriented consumer goods. In April 2020, the ILO predicted that 195 million workers worldwide would suffer severely in the second quarter of this year, owing to the economic fallout of COVID-19. When advanced economies like Canada contract sharply, their consumers cut back on spending, and demand for goods from export-oriented countries plummets. Markets are shaky, and the stakes are high for everyone, particularly women in developing and emerging economies. Though these women have long been subject to poor working conditions and insecure employment, waged employment has also led to changes in household gender relations, including, for example, shared decision-making on spending and increased participation by male partners in household responsibilities. Given the unique and immense pressures of the pandemic on global supply chains, workers risk losing not only their jobs but gains they have made in household and gender dynamics. This sightline examines the economic and social impacts on workers in global supply chains, formulating a basis for policy intervention that addresses worker well-being, both in the workplace and beyond paid work, with a particular emphasis on holding on to gains in labour standards and women’s economic empowerment (Pike 2020; Pike and English 2020).

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International Dalit Solidarity Network: Vulnerable workers in supply chains need urgent protection to survive impact of Covid-19. (April 3, 2020).

Many vulnerable workers in supply chains are already exposed to forced and bonded labour, dangerous work, long working hours, very low wages, discrimination and are without work or income security. The Covid-19 crisis only increases and deepens the negative impact of these conditions on the precarious lives of these workers. Governments and companies must now step up to the plate to protect workers who risk getting ill or dying as a result of their lack of labour and social protection combined with the adverse impacts of measures to stop the spread of Covid-19.