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Putting People First

India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) guarantees 100 days of local infrastructure-related work every year to rural households whose adult members volunteer to perform unskilled manual labor. Reflecting both its success and neediness among rural populations, MGNREGS was accessed by 55.7 million households across India in 2010–11. If the local government institution cannot provide the work, households are eligible for the payment of benefits. With these payments, the scheme not only supports families directly and helps build rural assets, it also acts as a wage base, elevating daily laborers’ earnings in India’s rural areas.

Other nations have also provided labor measures that have kept workers in jobs despite the recent global financial crisis. These include Germany’s programme of work-sharing, called Kurzarbeit. The scheme basically cuts the number of hours employees work but keeps them in jobs. 

The Republic of Korea has instituted a youth internship programme. So far 90,000 interns have been put to work in administrative agencies, public institutions and small or medium-sized enterprises. South Africa has established an expanded public works programme that has put hundreds of thousands of people to work. Argentina, too, has found ways to preserve jobs and workers’ and companies’ financial viability during the crisis. The government’s Productive Recovery Programme has paid a fixed monthly subsidy to enterprises who show evidence of need, against the engagement not to lay off any personnel. 

All these efforts promote decent work and put people first, treating workers as talent rather than resource costs.

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