Impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on formal sector workers: (potential) social protection and employment responses


The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus poses an unprecedented challenge to economies and societies in low-, middle- and high-income countries across the globe. Containing the pandemic and protecting people is the top priority of countries and therefore wide-ranging containment measures have been adopted over the last weeks. However, these measures, in combination with disrupted supply chains and falling demand, put people’s jobs and livelihoods at severe risk.

Therefore, governments are under high pressure to find fast and effective solutions to deal with the health, economic and social impact of the unfolding COVID-19 crisis on workers. This includes:

  • measures to reduce the direct exposure of workers to the COVID-19 virus. This is especially the case for high-risk groups, such as working-age population with underlying medical conditions,
  • access to health services, as well as additional income support for sick and quarantined workers and their families,
  • solutions for income support and replacement for those with extended care responsibilities for children and older people due to the crisis,
  • and most importantly: approaches to tackle the far-reaching negative economic consequences of the crisis for workers and their families. This includes measures to avoid layoffs wherever possible, as well as providing (extended) social protection for those who lose their jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Many countries have already started to take such measures and innovative policy responses can be found in high-income countries but also to a certain extent in (lower-)middle-income contexts. Policy options include extended and adapted care and sick leave arrangements (e.g. Italy, Germany, and Austria), new or adapted short-time work arrangements that allow employers to significantly reduce working hours for a certain period of time, while reductions in remuneration for employees will be made up for by the government to some extent (e.g. Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, and Austria), as well as adaption and extension of unemployment benefits to protect those losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis (e.g. South Africa, Indonesia, and Colombia). Certainly, other countries will follow and additional policy options will be coming up as the crisis evolves.

This webinar aimed at highlighting the specific challenges that the COVID-19 crisis brings along for formal sector workers, on the one hand, and at presenting policy options in the field of social protection and employment to address them, on the other hand.


Sebastian Königs, Labour Economist / Social Policy Analyst, OECD

Mohammed Noor Khrais, Social Security Cooperation of Jordan

Raden Muhamad Purnagunawan, Head of Economy Working Group, Secretariat of the National Team for the Acceleration of Poverty Reduction (TNP2K), Indonesia

Johannes Schweighofer, Austrian Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs


Luca Pellerano, Senior Social Protection Specialist, ILO


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This was the seventh webinar of the “Social protection responses to COVID-19” webinar series. The series is a joint effort initiated by the IPC-IGGIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the Australia Government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) collaboration with the platform, and in cooperation with partners from different organisations. Join our online community ''Social protection responses to COVID-19 [Task force]'' to learn more about the initiative and the future webinars.