A statement from the ILO says that lessons learned from the Covid-19 crisis should encourage reforms towards a more sustainable and resilient aquaculture sector and food systems at large. For the sector to feed the world’s growing population, it needs to engage in concerted efforts to promote sustainable enterprises and decent work for its workforce.
These are among the main conclusions of the Technical meeting on the future of work in aquaculture in the context of the rural economy (13 to 17 December 2021) that brought together representatives from governments, employers and workers at the ILO to discuss the decent work challenges and opportunities in the aquaculture sector.
In recent decades aquaculture has made important contributions to reducing poverty and hunger in many impoverished rural communities. It remains an important source of livelihoods and food for many rural workers today. At least 20.5 million people work in primary aquaculture production. Many more are engaged along the aquaculture supply chain.
“If we are to ensure that the aquaculture industry will contribute to inclusive growth and decent work opportunities for more women and men we must create a level playing field and an enabling environment for sustainable production and for workers to enjoy their rights at work,” said Magnús Magnússon Norɖdahl, Chairperson of the meeting.
With a growing world population and environmental pressures, aquaculture is increasingly recognised as holding potential for sustainably addressing challenges of food and nutritional security. In a number of developing countries there is also growing appreciation of its role in enterprise development, job creation and livelihood diversification, especially for the rural poor. To promote the sustainability and growth of the aquaculture sector and harness its potential to advance sustainable development, inclusive growth and decent work, there needs to be a stronger focus on addressing employment and labour challenges facing the sector.
The impact of the pandemic has been felt by both businesses and workers in the sector. Workers, especially in processing, have been at heightened risk of exposure to the virus, with the long working hours in close quarters and low temperatures. Businesses have struggled to remain viable, which has been reflected in reduced working hours or lay-offs, impacting the livelihood of workers and their families. The lessons learned from the crisis should encourage reforms towards more sustainable and resilient aquaculture and food systems more generally.
“The current pandemic has exacerbated decent work deficits in the sector. But many of these deficits had existed long before its outbreak” said Krisjan Bragason, Workers’ group Vice-Chairperson. “Social dialogue, based on the respect of freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, is the key to finding solutions that work for all.”
The meeting adopted conclusions that will assist governments, workers and employers to take measures to tap the potential of the sector to support full and productive employment and decent work for all, so contributing to food and nutrition security and making sure that no one is left behind.