Policy Brief No.3
The New Social Contract: CSO Reflections
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the flaws and gaps present in development governance of every government around the world. The flaws and gaps have been further exacerbated for migrant workers and irregular migrants in several countries of destination, now struggling to extend basic services for all in attempts to control the spread of the virus. Currently, multiple stakeholders are looking at improving existing social contracts in their fields as the incapacity of state bodies to handle the crisis has laid bare several forms of inefficiencies.
A social contract can be understood as an implicit arrangement that defines the relationship between the government and citizens, between labour and capital, or between different groups of the population. Essentially, a social contract reflects a common understanding on how to distribute power and resources in order to achieve social justice (ILO, 2016). As per the ILO (ILO, 2016), certain trends such as globalisation and financialization of the economy, technological advancements in the field of work, informality within work and the weakening of labour market institutions, were driving forces in eroding the existing bases of social contracts. These trends compounded by the pandemic has made it imperative for governments, trade unions, businesses and civil society to alter or improve the existing social contract to benefit all of society – in terms of recognising migrant workers and workers classified as ‘essential’, expanding access to social protection for all workers and improving access to healthcare and services.
Migrant Forum in Asia facilitated a webinar session for various CSOs and trade unions to rethink modalities of the social contract. Moderated by William Gois, Regional Coordinator (MFA) and Roula Hamati, Regional Coordinator (CCRM) on 22nd May 2020, leading CSO and trade union activists including Mr. Saji Narayanan, President, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS)1, Ms. Sumitha Kishna, Director of Our Journey (Malaysia), and Chairperson of MFA, Dr. Sr. Lissy Joseph, Chairperson, National Workers Welfare Trust (NWWT)2, Ms. Dina Nuriyati, Advisory Indonesia (SBMI) and Mr. Laxman Basnet, General Secretary of the South Asian Regional Trade Union Council (SARTUC) participated in the webinar.