COVID-19 brings inequalities into sharper focus, concern – EPF CEO

by BERNAMA / pic by TMR FILE

KUALA LUMPUR – The COVID-19 pandemic has brought inequalities into a sharper focus and concern whereby the value of decent work, good health, quality education, and a meaningful standard of living has now been brought into a new light.

Employees Provident Fund (EPF) chief executive officer Datuk Seri Amir Hamzah Azizan (picture) said the impact of inequalities has been a challenging issue that hinders the development of communities around the world.

“With the pandemic, the pre-existing conditions of inequality have been compounded, leading to even more unfavourable social and economic conditions. We need far-reaching solutions towards achieving social wellbeing.

“There needs to be further discussions on social protection policies that are aimed at addressing shortcomings and to promote access for all in order to achieve better quality of life” he said in the second day opening speech at the International Social Wellbeing Conference 2021 organised by the EPF today.

Amir Hamzah said as inequality arises from the lack of opportunities and resources for those who need it most, there is the need to look into consolidation efforts across all stakeholders, be it from the public or the private sector.

Understanding and exploring the dynamics of public-private collaboration to spur economic growth is a key strategy for us to explore, he noted.

“We believe that mobilising our resources and efforts together is highly imperative to overcome the pressing problems of the nation. We need bold strategies for social justice and decent work and to create a sustainable and resilient future for our children,” he said.

He shared that social protection has an important role to play in addressing inequalities and building inclusive societies and many nations have accelerated their efforts in utilising social protection tools for the pandemic response.

“As social protection gains more prominence, I believe that this brings us to the question – how do we build resilience to face the next crisis?.

“As the social and economic environment continuously shifts and vulnerabilities are exposed, we are now at a crossroad.

“The provision of social assistance, such as cash transfer programmes, can yield high social and economic returns, and enable the people to make longer-term investments for the future. We need to move towards a progressive view on social assistance and other social protection policies,” he said.

Post COVID-19 economy requires us to take a new look towards renegotiating the social contract, he said, adding that at the heart of a strong social contract, therein lies the virtuous cycle, which includes greater trust, increased investment in quality provisions, commitment to the public mandate, and most importantly, decent work for all.

“With a new social contract, we can work together towards promoting the rights of the citizens, ensuring decent jobs with a dignified wage structure and enhancing inclusivity, through social dialogues and collective bargaining.

“Hence, we need more conversations, utilising the tripartite mechanism involving the government, businesses, and the public in order to create a better economy, a better society, and a better world,” he added.