Concerns over labour rights resurface in IFC’s Covid-19 response

16 July 2020

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank, faced calls to outline its approach to occupational health and safety and social protection measures in a joint letter from human rights groups sent in May.

The letter was submitted as the IFC allocated $8 billion in financing in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, of which $6 billion will be disbursed through financial intermediaries and $2 billion to support its existing clients in the infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture, and services industries (see Dispatch Springs 2020).

The letter, addressed to IFC chief executive officer Philippe Le Houérou, outlined recommendations to ensure that its Covid-19 response aligns with the IFC’s Performance Standards and binding international labour and human rights standards. It called on the IFC to publish a strategy detailing how it is supporting clients to implement paid sick and family leave, job protection, employer-provided childcare and health care, occupational health and safety and non-discriminatory retrenchment. The IFC has not publicly disclosed whether clients receiving Covid-19 response financing are required to adopt these measures.

The Covid-19 pandemic has already had a devastating impact on millions of workers in precarious and informal employment, particularly women. Komala Ramachandra, with US-based organisation Human Rights Watch said, “The IFC should act quickly and transparently to leverage relief funds to assist the millions of workers connected to their private sector and financial intermediary clients.”

The IFC has faced long-standing criticism for its record on workers’ rights, which some fear will be exacerbated by the pandemic (see Observer Winter 2018, Spring 2018).