Saturday, March 2, 2024

ROUND TABLE IN CATUS: CORONA DEEPENED INEQUALITIES AND POVERTY

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At the round table ‘Influence of the Pandemic on Employees in the Republic of Serbia’ organized by the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia it was pointed out that Corona intensified and deepened inequalities and poverty in the society. Also, it put physical and mental health of the population at risk because of which economic and OHS measures are necessary.
The study conducted by the CATUS expert team shows that the pandemic affected the decrease of GDP (1%), increase of the budget deficit (8,1%), increase of the public debt (57,4% of GDP), inequalities in revenue and poverty while the rising trend of precarious forms of employment, which previously started, continued in 2020.
According to the expert team leader Ph.D. Rajko Kosanović the most vulnerable groups were employees in informal jobs, employees in micro entreprises, employees in the sector of traffic, warehousing, accommodation services and catering, as well as employees in the private sector.
Kosanović explained that more than a third of workers were in informal employment, the number of those who worked from home increased from 4% before the pandemic to over 12% during the crisis while the labour legislation didn’t follow this trend. Finally, he concluded by saying that around 30% of interviewees felt that the pandemic affected their psychological health negatively and among them women and individuals older than 35 formed the majority.
Numerous speakers included the CATUS President Ljubisav Orbović, who emphasized that the main characteristics of the pandemic were fear of losing your job, economic downfall, social and economic inequalities; President of the Association of Economists of Belgrade Gojko Rikalović; State Secretary in the Ministry of Health Zoran Radovanović and Nada Novaković, senior associate in the Institute of Social Sciences.
Mrs Novaković said that the pandemic revealed all faults of the health policy, having in mind that less than 5% of the GDP was invested in the health system and health workers were leaving the country. She noticed that legislation wasn’t adjusted to the changes that happened during the pandemic, primarily to work from home. Workers were working on their computers from their homes and thus put their health at risk. They weren’t compensated because they worked in difficult conditions. Work intensified because they had to work harder for the same amount of money while their work wasn’t valued.
She estimated that the crisis had only deepened the inequalities even more and put the burden on the weakest: pensioners, working class and unskilled workers.
Last but not the least, ILO Coordinator for Serbia Jovan Protić made it clear that it was extremely important to regulate work from home as an increasing number of people were working from home. Also, the Law on Occupational Health and Safety needs to include a more precise definition of mental health because this situation showed us that feeling uncertainty, fear and alientation were predominant emotions that harmed people’s health in general.

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