Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Labour and Employment

International cooperation and solidarity needed to address social and economic impact of COVID-19

Countries need to work together to address labour market impact of COVID-19, said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, at the opening of the Labour and Employment Ministers meeting of the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – on 9 October.

Statement | 09 October 2020
Thank you, Minister Kotyakov,
Ministers, Employers’ and Workers’ representatives,
Secretary-General Caetano,


Let me express my sincere gratitude to you, Chair, and to your team for the excellent arrangements made for this meeting, under exceptional and difficult circumstances.

Since the first BRICS Labour Ministerial Meeting, pioneered by Russia in 2016, major changes have of course occurred in the world of work. And this year, COVID-19 has turned the world upside down in ways that we could not have imagined. It risks derailing the progress achieved and exacerbating the existing challenges to decent work. Addressing its social and economic impact will require all our efforts.

In the past few months, BRICS countries have taken important labour market and social protection measures to respond effectively to the COVID-19 crisis.

The existing social protection mechanisms provided crucial protections immediately to some 1.6 billion beneficiaries across the BRICS countries. And new measures were introduced where they were necessary to better respond to the devastating effects of the pandemic. The ILO has identified no fewer than 121 new social protection measures taken between March and August 2020 in your countries, including temporary benefits and the expansion of existing benefits to new situations and population categories.


Sustaining jobs, enterprises and income and social protection measures at the necessary scale when resources are likely to become increasingly constrained will be a challenge. But avoiding reversing all the progress that has been made both in overcoming the pandemic and in reducing poverty, and ensuring no one is left behind, will require our continuing efforts in all the areas I have mentioned. It will also require higher levels of international cooperation and solidarity.

And to face these daunting challenges, the social partners need to be involved very fully. Their welcome presence here today demonstrates the understanding by the BRICS countries of the importance of social dialogue.

Social dialogue enables us effectively to reconcile competing interests and to build trust and ownership of response measures. Its importance cannot be emphasized too strongly, and that applies particularly to the important themes you have put on the agenda today: workers’ safety, social protection, and the challenges of the digital economy.

Ministers, Colleagues,

The ILO stands ready to accompany you in your efforts. We already work closely and I believe effectively in each one of your countries individually, and we have a very positive record of cooperation collectively.

Indeed, an important partnership has developed between BRICS countries and the ILO. I would like to conclude by conveying to you today how much the ILO values this relationship, and reaffirming our strong commitment to offer you our continuing support.