Worried by the rampart spread of deadly HIV virus in the workplace globally, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has mapped out plans for HIV testing and counselling in 18 countries including Nigeria.
According to a report by the global labour body, the programme, under the VCT@WORK (voluntary counselling and testing at work) initiative, is reaching out to workers in sectors as diverse as beauty salons, farming, trucking, mining, and entertainment, as well as the informal sector.
The report said ILO was working with a wide range of partners, including governments, trade unions and employers to carry out the initiative, which is seen as an important part of global efforts to reduce gaps in HIV testing and treatment for meeting the goal of ending AIDS by 2030.
Since the initiative was launched in 2013 – by the ILO, UNAIDS, the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) – over 4.1 million workers and family members were counselled and took the HIV test. Over 103,000 who tested positive were referred to access antiretroviral treatment.
One of the lead companies engaged in the initiative is Coal India Limited (CIL), the largest public sector coal company in India, with 314,000 employees and a large number of contractual workers. A total of 29,580 employees and their dependants accessed HIV counselling and testing. All 141 who tested positive for HIV have been put on anti-retroviral treatment by the company.
Public Private Partnerships were effectively used to promote VCT@WORK. In Indonesia, for example, a partnership was established between the ILO and Pertamina, one of the biggest state-owned enterprises.
Pertamina developed a workplace policy to ensure a non-discriminatory working environment for persons living with HIV and initiated HIV information, counselling and testing for workers in all its worksites across the country.
Other countries listed to benefit from the initiative are Cambodia, Cameroon, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Russia Federation, South Africa, Tanzania, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, ILO has called for a change in strategy to enable Small and Media scale Enterprises (SMEs) operators to access loans.But in many cases, SMEs cannot get bank loans, or only get credit at comparatively high rates, because they lack audited financial statements, repayment history and business assets for use as collateral.
“SMEs play a crucial role in creating jobs, but often lack access to the external funding they need,” said Deborah Greenfield, ILO Deputy Director-General for Policy.
“Policy-makers need to consider strategies that would help SMEs access such funds, including bank loans for their working capital, which can have strong benefits for both workers and employers.”
The ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook 2017: Sustainable Enterprises and Jobs, released earlier this month, shows that firms are more likely to make greater use of bank loans for working capital in countries which have stronger creditor rights protection. The same is true in countries that have addressed issues such as poor accountability, lack of respect for the rule of law and corruption.
Some innovative practices have proven beneficial in allowing firms to access additional capital for growth, while supporting vulnerable groups and broader social and environmental issues.
Germany’s micro-mezzanine fund, for example, aims at promoting social inclusion by increasing financing opportunities for small business and start-ups.
The financial instrument gives priority to specific groups, such as women, migrants and the unemployed, who are generally excluded from financial services due to their lack of credit history or scant equity.
Another example is that of the Republic of Korea, which promotes the chanelling of venture capital to SMEs, among other support measures, as part of the Government’s “creative economy.” The measures include tax reductions and crowd funding for start-ups, facilitation of mergers and acquisitions for enterprises in the “development stage” and promotion of reinvestment for more mature firms.
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