Many people have been able to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be paid, but low-income workers often haven’t had that opportunity.
In Indonesia, the latest labour force survey results show that 29 million workers have been affected by the pandemic, with 24 million workers suffering from cuts in hours of work and income. Average wages were depressed by 5.2% between 2019 and 2020. Surveys conducted by the Indonesia AIDS Coalition show that the situation is similar for people living with HIV and key populations-more than 80% of 529 respondents had experienced a reduction or loss of income due to the pandemic.
To address the rising income inequality, the United Nations allocated a US$ 1.7 million funding package to bolster the economic empowerment of women and vulnerable populations in Indonesia and to help protect their livelihoods from the devastating socioeconomic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the UNAIDS Country Office for Indonesia worked with the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Development Programme and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to mobilize the funding.
A joint project launched earlier this month will directly benefit and empower vulnerable groups, including women, people living with HIV, key populations, refugees, migrant workers and people in disadvantaged regions.
The one-year project offers support through training on entrepreneurship and business development and facilitates access to skills development and jobs. UNAIDS will work closely with civil society organizations to identify the beneficiaries and ensure that people living with HIV and transgender people and other key populations are among the approximately 3650 people to be supported by the project.
The Indonesia Positive Network is among the organizations that will be involved in the project. Meirinda Sebayang, the National Coordinator of the Indonesia Positive Network, appreciates the support of the project. “COVID-19 has amplified existing disparities, especially for the livelihoods of people living with HIV and key populations in Indonesia. In this difficult time, we learned that it is important to build trust and strong collaboration between communities, government, health services and United Nations partners, not only to ensure that essential services remain available but to ensure that our community is not left behind in the response and recovery from the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19,” she said.
The project also includes advocacy for policies that promote inclusion and respond to discrimination in the government, the private sector and trade unions. Through this sensitization and advocacy work, these sectors will be required to protect vulnerable groups from discrimination and exclusion from the job market, even beyond the COVID-19 recovery.
One year into the pandemic, it is crucial that United Nations agencies join forces to support vulnerable groups, which have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, in the recovery process.
“Many key populations affected by HIV work in informal settings and were seriously hit by the pandemic. While we may not be able to respond to every single need of the community, we aim to provide an example of how to support vulnerable communities in these stressful and critical times. We believe that through this project many people will receive the direct support and opportunities that are vital for the recovery of their livelihoods,” said Krittayawan Boonto, the UNAIDS Country Director for Indonesia.