On Prime Minister Imran Khan’s request, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has agreed to convene a special session of its member states on July 8 to evolve a strategy for the well-being of labourers in the post-coronavirus scenario. This session was blatantly overdue, as nearly all countries struggle with alarming rates of unemployment and drop in livelihoods. Labourers all around the world are more disempowered now compared to previous years. This is a special time and it requires global effort to overcome the harms inflicted by the pandemic.

In Pakistan, like other states, the pandemic has disrupted the livelihoods of countless workers which need to be looked at from a global lens to achieve lasting solutions. However, as Prime Minister Imran Khan prepares to address ILO’s member states on this occasion, he should also take in notice that COVID-19 has not just harmed the livelihoods of many, but it has also revealed how fragile and unsustainable some employment paths are, and this fragility will continue even after the pandemic subsides. It will be important to conduct research into which employment sectors would be unable to survive a “work from home” environment since the pandemic will inevitably result in some lasting shifts in work culture and purchasing trends.

The government needs to prioritise the discussion particularly on those workers who live on or below the poverty line and those who fell into extreme poverty due to the pandemic’s impact on the economy. It is these workers who are most vulnerable to another such shock in the future, and for whom recovery from the pandemic will be the most difficult. Pakistan has a unique working culture which needs to be called into question now that COVID-19 has disrupted employment so deeply—for example, layoffs continued despite government calls and in many cases unacceptable working hours, which reflect that this is not just a pandemic problem and that we need to provide legal safety nets here at home as well.