UN Joint Programme on Strengthening Social Protection presented assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the socio-economic situation in Uzbekistan
Comprehensive economic, employment and social protection measures in Uzbekistan are gaining even more prominence and urgency in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the UN Joint Programme on Strengthening Social Protection in Uzbekistan and at the request of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the ILO Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia conducted an assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the socio-economic situation in Uzbekistan (income, labor markets and access to social protection). Representatives of Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, Ministry of Makhalla and Family Support, Ministry of Health, Federation of Trade Unions, Confederation of Employers of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Pension Fund, international organizations, financial institutions and the UN agencies came together to discuss key findings of an assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the socio-economic situation in Uzbekistan.
Mr. Nozim Khusanov, Minister of Employment and Labour Relations of Uzbekistan, thanked the ILO Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia for support in conducting this assessment and emphasized that in 2020 Uzbekistan, like most countries, faced severe shocks from the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to deal with the effects of the global crisis (reduced economic growth; increased fiscal deficit; increased vulnerability of citizens; a surge in unemployment, especially in small and micro businesses and the informal sector). The government passed several packets of support measures in extending coverage of social benefits, tax incentives, support programmes for enterprises, stimulation of employment and occupational safety and health. As a strategic direction it was noted that the government will continue development of a national employment strategy and digitalization of labour related issues in Uzbekistan.
The meeting focused on presentation of the direct and indirect impact of the global COVID-19 crisis on the socio-economic situation in the country for a number of indicators, including analysis of measures adopted since 19 March 2020 to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and assessment of risks to sectors of economy. Along with this, policy recommendations on additional measures to post-COVID-19 economic and social development in Uzbekistan were presented during the meeting.
Ms. Olga Koulaeva, Director of the ILO Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, noted that suggested policy options in report follow the ILO's Four Pillar Policy Framework for tackling the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis based on international labour standards which incorporates: the need to support enterprises, jobs and incomes; stimulate the economy and employment; protect workers and workplaces underpinned by social dialogue. Ms. Koulaeva also noted, that report focuses not only on assessing the effects of the influence of COVID-19, but also offers a number of measures for the country's post-crisis development. She thanked the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations and Confederation of Employers for their support in conducting survey in such a difficult period.
Ms. Koulaeva also noticed, that this assessment complements and further informs the ILO’s ongoing initiative on the development of a national employment strategy and will contribute to development of a national strategy on social protection implemented within the UN Joint Programme on Strengthening Social Protection.
Ms. Helena Fraser, UN Resident Coordinator for Uzbekistan, noted that this initiative is one of the deliverables of the UN Country Team under the umbrella of the Socio-economic mitigation task force responding to COVID-19 pandemic. She also thanked the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations and social partners involved for collaboration with ILO, UNICEF and UNDP in implementation of a Joint Programme on Strengthening Social Protection System and Accelerating Agenda 2030.
Ms. Fraser highlighted that the report comes timely to further join together governments, UNCTs and IFI's response to already demonstrated increasing demand to address the needs of different population groups for income security, job retention and access to jobs and social welfare.
The experience shows that post COVID recovery will be aided by social protection and employment policies that cohere and complement each other; and are supported by overall macro-economic framework. Report highlights the need to design shock responsive social protection system and human centered employment policies; to extend the coverage with social protection to workers in informal employment.