By Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, and John W.H. Denton, AO Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce
Businesses of all sizes are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented measures to contain it. As orders are cancelled and export barriers and movement restrictions cut-off supply chains, millions of businesses worldwide, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), are at risk.
As these businesses are affected, so are their employees. In communities worldwide, SMEs represent 80% of global employment. They are an economic engine for local and national economies alike.
Under COVID-19, this powerful engine could grind to a halt. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), approximately 400 million full-time jobs were lost globally between April and June 2020.
These job losses have direct impacts not only on economies, but on children—on their health, their nutrition, their wellbeing and their education. The economic fallout could push up to 86 million more children into household poverty by the end of 2020. With the poorest and most vulnerable people at the greatest risk, the impact of COVID-19 could have devastating and lasting repercussions on children and societies alike, making the poor poorer, and pushing millions more into lives of lasting deprivation.
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the institutional representative of over 45 million businesses, and UNICEF, the United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide, are calling on businesses, governments and civil society to gather behind these urgent needs.
We must work together to keep economies afloat, avoid permanent damage to business operations and employment pipelines, and support children, families and communities through, and beyond, this global emergency.
At the same time, this is also an opportunity to re-imagine and re-build systems and economies that benefit all people, including the poorest and most vulnerable.
Now is the time to “build back better,” by putting prosperity and opportunity for all at the heart of our response.
As representatives of children and businesses, UNICEF and ICC are launching a joint call to action to the public and private sectors to help ensure that any recovery benefits families and economies alike, and brings us closer to the better, fairer, healthier and more prosperous world we all need.
Image of South African children by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay