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The Year Ahead 2021

A Post-COVID Labor Revival?

In contrast to the US recession that followed the 2008 global financial crisis, the COVID-19 downturn has elicited strong public support for workers, especially those in essential jobs. Perhaps, at long last, that sentiment will translate into concrete policies that strengthen labor rather than capital.

NEW YORK – Although a few vaccines have become available, COVID-19 will continue to harm the global economy in the year ahead. And that means a difficult year for the world’s workers.

The good news is that the pandemic has highlighted the vital role played by essential workers in sectors such as health care and logistics, especially those in precarious, low-paid jobs. In 2020, many in the developed world realized that their health and wealth depends in part on public schools staying open so that parents can work. People also saw how economies can suffer from a lack of paid sick leave, weak unions, the absence of workplace safety standards for infectious diseases, and the erosion of basic income protections when paid work is unavailable.

The bad news is that recognizing these problems does not change them. As millions of people actively seek work in 2021, many will find that employers increasingly have the upper hand, particularly in the United States. In short, American workers are about to be squeezed further, unless President-elect Joe Biden’s administration does something about it.

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