How the Ukraine Crisis Affects the World of Work

Shedding a light on the ILO’s aid to Ukraine

As we all know, the war in Ukraine has had and continues to have devastating effects. Towns are being bombed, infrastructure is being destroyed and many people are dying. In response to a crisis like this, we naturally look at the United Nations (UN) as it tries its best to fight the humanitarian crisis that has resulted from this war. What is fairly remarkable though, is the fact that the International Labour Organization (ILO) also plays a role in aiding Ukraine during this crisis. At first glance, war is associated with the world of politics, while the ILO focuses on the world of work. To understand why and to what extent the ILO plays a role in this, this blog post will discuss how war can also be a concern for the world of work.

It makes sense that everyone, international organisations included, wants to do something to help in times of war. However, not every entity can really mean something in a war, right? As said, it seems unlikely for war to be a concern for the ILO. However, war also has huge effects on the world of work. In this case, the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine is causing widespread flows of refugees and internally displaced people, for whom there is a high risk of forced labour and human trafficking, as well as large-scale employment and income losses. According to the ILO Monitor of the World of Work 2022, 15 per cent of employment (equivalent to 2.4 million jobs) has been lost. As the war drags on, more Ukrainians could lose their jobs and millions could be pushed into poverty, offsetting years of development efforts. 

With the world of work indeed being heavily implicated, the ILO responded to these risks by implementing several remedies, as introduced in the ILO technical service offer regarding support for Ukraine recovery. At first, the ILO focused on the delivery of humanitarian aid, such as shelter and food, for displaced people in Ukraine and Moldova, since this is the most important form of immediate aid in a crisis like this. However, the ILO has also looked beyond short-term solutions by providing Ukraine (and Moldova) with preventative measures and support for long-term recovery. The long-term aid includes economic stabilisation and job preservation, inclusion of displaced people in labour markets and education, prevention of forced labour and human trafficking for displaced people, and financial support to trade unions and employers’ organisations. Furthermore, the ILO governing body adopted a resolution on the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine.

But how is the ILO able to provide this aid, and what part of the huge organisation is responsible for making it happen? Rather than operating only from Geneva, the ILO works with field offices that each represent a number of countries. In this case, the ILO-hub in Budapest, which has been there for over 25 years, has picked up this task. As the representative of the ILO in Central and Eastern Europe, this hub has well-established and trustful relationships with the Ukrainian government, the labour market institutions, and social partners. The reason this field office is able to provide the aid as mentioned in the Technical Service Offer, is because of the ILO’s Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience Recommendation (No. 205). This is a timely, highly relevant and up-to-date instrument that provides guidance to ILO constituents in addressing world-of-work issues in crisis situations. It includes the provision of immediate results in terms of income and livelihood creation, and working on longer term policy and institutional support.

As we can see, war does indeed affect the world of work, and so the ILO has an important role to play in aiding Ukraine. For all the latest news, more information and updates on the work of the ILO in Ukraine, keep an eye on this page.


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