COVID-19: Global Government Policy Outlook


Over the last few months, we have seen a historically large policy response across the globe, as governments continue adjusting to the new world of work brought upon by this pandemic. Governments have taken unprecedented actions, ranging from school closures, travel bans, non-essential business closures, social distancing, among others—as reflected in the maps below.[1]



Key findings of a Global COVID-19 Survey by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) show that out of 86 countries surveyed, only 21% are providing sick leave for all or some workers and 53% are containing the spread of the coronavirus with national lockdown measures such as schools and nonessential businesses closures. To this end, the top five policies that governments around the world are implementing in response to the economic impacts of the virus are:[2]

  1. The provision of free health care (50% of countries)
  2. Employment protection for those self-isolating (34% of countries)
  3. Tax relief for businesses (31% of countries)
  4. Paid sick leave for a period of self-isolation (29% of countries)
  5. Bailout funds for business or sectors (29% of countries)

Similarly, the International Labour Organization (ILO) expects for the world to see a loss of approximately 25 million jobs, as COVID-19 continues to push millions of people into unemployment and underemployment. The ILO estimates that this pandemic will have a large impact on the global GDP growth—with global unemployment estimated to rise between 5.3 million and 24.7 million, from a base level of 188 million in 2019. Such outcome could surpass the last global financial crisis, which led to an estimated global unemployment of 22 million in 2008-2009.[3]


In terms of underemployment and reduced working hours, the ILO estimated that working hours will see a 6.7% decline, comparable to 195 million full-time workers in the second quarter of 2020. The majority of them will take place in the hardest-hit sectors, such as retail trade, accommodation services, food services, and manufacturing—all of which is affecting the world’s workforce of 3.3 billion.[4]


In order to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, the ILO’s Monitor 2nd edition: COVID-19 and the world of work report released on April 7th, calls for governments to take large-scale policy measures across four pillars:[5] 


Pillar 1: Stimulating the economy and employment

Pillar 2: Supporting enterprises, jobs and incomes

Pillar 3: Protecting workers in the workplace

Pillar 4: Relying on social dialogue for solutions


For the latest COVID-19 information, tools and resources, please visit the SHRM Public Policy COVID-19 page.

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