Funded by: Centre for Development Economics and Sustainability, Monash Business School

Principal Investigators: Prof. Fang Lee Cooke, Monash Business School, Monash University

As the COVID-19 global pandemic is affecting more and more countries in different parts of the world, its global socio-economic impact has begun to unfold, although the extent of which would remain unknown for some time. What is known so far is that many businesses have been negatively affected due to forced business shut down, decline of customers, cancellation of business orders, and so forth. Developing countries in Asia have been hit hard, both directly as a result of COVID-19 itself and more so indirectly as a result of the negative impact on the global supply chain, which their economy has relied on heavily and deeply embedded in.

This project aims to understand the role of governments, employers and trade unions as key stakeholders in the field of employment in selected Asian developing countries in combating the impact of COVID-19 on employment to maintain economic development and social wellbeing of the workers and their family.

The project seeks to address the following research questions:

  1. What may be the impact of COVID-19 on businesses and their responses in selected developing countries and sectors in Asia?
  2. How have employers’ responses affect workers in these countries and sectors?
  3. What are the government’s regulatory and policy interventions and their effects on different groups of workers particularly those in informal employment and low-income households?
  4. What are the responses from other key stakeholders such as the trade unions, and how effective have these responses been?
  5. What may be the lessons learned and to be shared for better policy decisions and impacts?

This project mainly adopts a desk-based research method to examine the financial support from governments to small- and medium-sized businesses in the form of wage or other benefits so that they can continue to employ staff, esp. in the low pay sector. It surveys (via publicly available information), compare and contrast these policy initiatives across selected countries: Australia, UK, China, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Pakistan. The project will investigate in greater depth key stakeholders’ actions and policy interventions across the selected countries. The purpose of examining two developed countries, Australia and the UK, is to serve as an indication of what initiatives may exist and contemplate if these could be relevant to developing countries via adaptation and further initiative innovation. In particular, the project will examine the impact of COVID-19 on low-income households and female workers, who are often additionally burdened with care responsibilities, and the potential rise of inequality through secondary data. This data will be supplemented by data from a small number of informal interviews to be conducted via zoom or telephone with key stakeholders in selected developing countries.

The findings of the project will highlight the uneven impact of COVID-19 on different groups of workers and businesses, with policy implications in these countries and beyond, through informing policy decisions and institutional learning. Findings and recommendations will show policymakers what intended and unintended consequences certain policy and regulatory decisions, and their implementation, may yield. Findings will also facilitate workers’ organizing bodies, such as the trade unions, to learn from strategies, practices, and lessons from peers while developing their own capacity to organise and represent workers. Finally, findings of the project help foster a social partnership approach for government, businesses, workers’ organizing bodies, and other key stakeholders to work together to provide optimal solutions that balance the needs of businesses and workers in a fair and equitable manner.