Essential Workers

Publication: Policy Brief

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the extent to which we rely on essential workers. Around the world, health workers have been greeted by clapping, but this has not translated into improvements in their working conditions or pay. On the contrary, as COVID-19 cases and deaths have mounted, so too have the pressures and fatalities among health and other essential workers.

Member of the maintenance department staff cleans the armchairs, tables and microphones in a room in the UN headquarters in Geneva. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

A new deal for essential workers is not only the right thing to do on ethical and other grounds. It is in everyone’s self-interest. Without a new deal for essential workers, societies will not be able to respond to the intensifying cycle of crises that arise from an increasingly complex, interconnected, and unstable world. Whether it is a natural disaster, large-scale terrorism, geopolitical hostilities, or another pandemic, it is only a matter of time before society must again face down a crisis of unprecedented scale. To build resilience, we need a well-trained, deeply committed, and full complement of essential workers who will rise to the challenge. A new deal for these workers should be seen as a central tenet of creating more resilient economies, and an investment to reduce risk and future proof our societies.

In order to close the widening divide between the rhetoric and reality, author Ian Goldin argues in this paper that a new deal is required for essential workers and begins by defining essential workers and laying out the key facts around the prevailing socioeconomic background for such workers. It then draws on the experience of mitigating and compensating for risks in other socially necessary but hazardous occupations, such as the military, and uses this to define the contours of what a new deal for essential workers should look like.

[ Read the full policy brief: Essential Workers ]

This policy brief is part of the Pathfinders Grand Challenge on Inequality & Exclusion. More information about this initiative can be found here.

More Resources

  • Publication: Report September 14, 2021 Inequality and Exclusion

    Employment Transitions

    The world of work is undergoing a fundamental transformation that will impact on workers and job seekers everywhere. Among the key drivers of this change are the climate emergency, demographic shifts and technological revolutions. This research paper identifies how employment is being transformed and to examine the options for a just transition, which will lead to improvements for workers around the world.

  • Publication: Report September 13, 2021 Inequality and Exclusion

    Social Contracts: Embracing a Just Technological and Energy Transition

    Social contracts determine what is to be provided and by whom. In democracies, political processes determine these outcomes, with the extent to which individuals, communities, cities, businesses, governments, and other actors and institutions provide education, health, security, infrastructure, and justice to shape what comes to be understood as the social contract. This paper shows that many existing social contracts are inadequate and require renewal to overcome countries’ failures to address the needs of the majority of their citizens.

  • Publication: Report September 17, 2021 Inequality and Exclusion

    From Rhetoric to Action: Delivering Equality & Inclusion

    The flagship report of the Pathfinders Grand Challenge on Inequality and Exclusion is about the solutions that will deliver equality and inclusion. It is the culmination of several years of research and mobilization undertaken by a unique partnership of ten countries, the United Nations, the World Bank, the OECD, Oxfam, and CIVICUS, along with numerous partners and international experts. The report constructs a bridge between the rhetoric of “build back better” and action: a bridge between promise and progress.

Stay Connected

Join our mailing list to receive regular updates on our latest events, analysis, and resources.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.