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The Research University: Stimulating the Economy and Employment during COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis impacts on both the demand and the supply sides of the labor market, and it has major implications for the goal of ensuring full employment and decent work.In particular, the crisis is pushing many families into poverty and increasing existing inequalities. Tackling the economic, employment and social consequences of this crisis calls for judicious policy sequencing. First, immediate stimulus packages are needed to strengthen the health sector while mitigating the impact on economies and labor markets through the provision of financial relief for enterprises (particularly micro- and small enterprises) and of income support for workers.Ideally, these policies need to be informed by rapid and reliable assessments of the impact of the lock-downs on economic activity, jobs and households. Sectoral variations should be carefully analysed so as to facilitate sector-specific responses.The measures taken should include the provision of support for workers and enterprises in all the sectors affected so as to prevent further contractions in consumption and investment. One important lesson learned from earlier crises is that support for employment and social protection must be a core element of stimulus packages. Second, once the spread of the virus has been contained and normal activity slowly resumes, a demand-led employment strategy for a medium- to longer-term recovery of jobs and incomes will be required. This strategy should include promoting employment creation in strategic sectors; restoring a conducive business environment and reinvigorating productivity growth; diversifying the economy and encouraging structural transformation; and making best use of technological advances. The rate at which restrictions may be eased without endangering public health, along with the very real possibility of restrictions being reintroduced if the infection rate starts increasing again, is likely to lead to cautiousness in spending on the part of consumers and to low investment by firms. The combined effect of the latter will probably be weaker demand and lower production and employment levels. These behavioral changes are likely to be long-lasting. It is important to consider the adoption of measures to restore consumer and business confidence, both of which are essential to prevent an economic depression and accelerate the recovery. While households and the private sector are likely to continue to be cautious, governments can play a decisive role by boosting demand in the construction sector through infrastructure-based stimulus packages, as has been done after other crises in the past. From a recovery perspective, the construction sector has a number of key advantages: it is relatively labor-intensive; its activities can be targeted at geographical areas with particular economic problems; and, in most countries, this sector has a large share of local inputs. It is also able to absorb workers from other sectors relatively easily. Not all countries are equally prepared to meet the above-mentioned challenges. In addition to suffering the impacts of lockdowns and lower global demand, developing economies are seeing their already limited fiscal space shrink further because of falling fiscal revenues and rising capital outflows. This results in higher borrowing costs and currency devaluations, undermining debt sustainability. Countries experiencing fragility, protracted conflicts, recurrent natural disasters or forced displacement of certain population groups will face even greater challenges. Global support for national stimulus packages is necessary to save lives in these countries, bolster their economies and labor demand, safeguard enterprises, jobs and incomes, and protect workers in the workplace.

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