Co-funded by the European Union

International Labour Office report on the use of peak-level social dialogue, globally and regionally, in the early stage of Covid-19 pandemic

  • The initial phase of the pandemic saw a widespread use of social dialogue processes.
  • In the great majority of countries, social dialogue processes achieved “specific and visible process outcomes”.
  • Most outcomes related to support enterprises, jobs and incomes, and occupational safety and health at the workplace.

The International Labour Office (ILO) Research Brief aims at reporting on the use of peak-level social dialogue during the initial phase of the Covid-19 pandemic between 15 March and 10 June 2020. The paper offers insights on the forms of social dialogue used (bipartite vs tripartite, countries and regions of the world, inter-sectoral vs sectoral) and the outcomes reached through these social dialogue processes.

Key takeaways are:

  • “A majority of countries and territories – 134 out of 188, or 71 per cent – used peak-level social dialogue, whether tripartite or bipartite, either singly or together, as part of their response to the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Among the 134, 13 per cent (17 countries and territories) used only bipartite social dialogue; 46 per cent (61) used only tripartite social dialogue and 42 per cent (56) used both bipartite and tripartite social dialogue.

  • [...]
  • 75 of the 134 countries and territories achieved 177 “specific and visible process outcomes”, such as guidelines, codes of conduct, declarations, social pacts and agreements.
  • [...]
  • Only 23 per cent (40) of the 177 outcomes were reached within a previously existing formal structure of social dialogue, such as a tripartite labour council, or an economic and social council or similar body. Most outcomes – 75 per cent (134) – were reached outside such a structure, either in ad hoc meetings or, in very few cases – 2 per cent (3) – within ad hoc bodies created specifically in response to the pandemic.
  • [...] Most outcomes to support enterprises, jobs and incomes, and to protect workers in the workplace [...], were adopted through peak-level bipartite social dialogue between employers and workers. A majority of proposals and measures relating to stimulating the economy and employment [...] and to relying on social dialogue for solutions [...] were cross-sectoral.

Of the 177 outcomes, 23 per cent (40) recommended additional social dialogue at lower levels, such as the sector or enterprise level, or required its use for implementation and monitoring purposes at these levels – signalling a need for better articulation among the different levels of social dialogue (national, federal, regional, sectoral and enterprise).[...]”.

These data demonstrate how Covid-19 was a booster for social dialogue and proved beneficial to address its negative repercussions on the labour market. It also shows the importance of inclusive and effective social dialogue mechanisms, which shall be improved and continued even in the next waves of the pandemic or during the economic recovery.