When Coronavirus came into the picture around December 2019 in Wuhan, China, no one in the world would have imagined that this will make the world economy crawl, will put a halt to many businesses and will bring innumerable livelihoods to a standstill. Global leaders have called this crisis worse than World War II and the 2008 economic crisis.
Countries across the world are dealing with one of the worst crises in history. Within a hundred days, the virus has reached almost every country in the world and emerged as the biggest economic and health challenge for them. More than three billion people across the globe are under lockdown and governments have stepped up efforts to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak. The United Nations, World Health Organization and other major industry bodies are working day in and day out to find out a way out of this pandemic.
Citizens of the country are looking for help from their respective governments and undoubtedly, all countries are doing their bit to provide financial aid and health support in the current situation. Almost all governments are helping their workforce with special plans, rebates and concessions that will boost the working class and won’t impact their economies in the long run.
Here is a look at what some reliefs that governments have announced for their workforce in the wake of the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
The way the Singapore government has managed to handle this crisis is an example for other countries. According to the World Economic Forum, Singapore was aggressive out of the gate and has continued to be. It was one of the first countries to impose restrictions on anyone with recent travel history to China and parts of South Korea. It has a strict hospital and home quarantine regimen for potentially infected patients and is extensively tracing anyone they may have been in contact with.
The Singapore government has announced a S$48 billion "Resilience Budget" to support hard-hit businesses and employees in the city-state. In a parliamentary address, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said that this massive package is intended to "save jobs, support workers, and protect livelihoods". The government has also dedicated over S$16 billion to keep people employed and ensure they have income during the pandemic downturn.
China is is the epicenter of this epidemic has worked hard to manage this crisis. The country is dealing with multiple health and economic issues as a huge number of cities are under lockdown and serious observation.
China’s central bank set a modest monetary easing for its financial sector and released around $80 billion to commercial banks as part of ongoing efforts to ensure the stability of the financial system as the country takes a hit from the coronavirus pandemic.
The financial regulators of the government have also insisted the nation’s lenders to delay recognizing bad loans from smaller businesses reeling from the coronavirus outbreak, that will provide temporary reprieve to trillions of yuan of debt.
Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a medical insurance of Rs. 50 lakh per individual for health workers for three months. Benefiting 4.8 crore employees, the government also amended EPFO regulations to allow workers under EPFO to draw up to 75 percent of their non-refundable advance or 3 months of wages, whichever is lower.
The Indian government has also announced a package of Rs 15,000 crore to strengthen the healthcare infrastructure in the country.
Japan has announced a package of measures worth about $4 billion in spending to manage the fallout to the economy due to COVID-19. This financial aid will focus on support for small and mid-sized firms, promote working from home, and provide subsidies to working parents who must take leave because of closed schools.
In a bid to encourage people who feel ill to self isolate, the Government of Ireland has relaxed application requirements for people to claim statutory sickness benefits. The changes give everyone, including those working in the gig economy, a temporary income and incentivise them to stay at home if they have symptoms of the virus.
Employers in Ireland are being urged by the government to continue paying any employee who is unable to attend work or is self-isolating the difference between the newly bolstered illness benefits and their normal wages.
In Britain, similar temporary changes have been made to the rules surrounding statutory sick pay (SSP). Instead of waiting four days to claim, employees who fall ill with the virus can claim from the first day of their absence from work. The application process will also be easier, as sick staff no longer need to obtain a doctor’s note to apply for SSP.
The country has also announced that anyone struggling with mortgage payments as a result of coronavirus because, for example, they are off work and on statutory sick pay, will get a three-month repayment holiday.
A hardship fund has also been set up to help local authorities support vulnerable people and households. Moves were also announced to help businesses defer payments, to ease pressure on their cash flow caused by the virus outbreak.
Among the European countries, Italy has been the worst hit by this crisis from all corners. The country has witnessed the maximum number of deaths and went into a lock down since the early stage of COVID-19. Italian government has also announced €10bn into the economy. According to a media report, Rome has increased the scale of a planned stimulus package to help cushion the economic blow to at least €25bn, The Prime Minister has announced that it will include funds for topping up wages and support for exporters as well as extra money for the health service.
The United States has approved a historic, $2 trillion stimulus package to provide relief to the economy dealing from the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the key elements of the proposal are $250 billion set aside for direct payments to individuals and families, $350 billion in small business loans, $250 billion in unemployment insurance benefits and $500 billion in loans for distressed companies.
The plan will deliver a massive infusion of financial aid into a struggling economy hard hit by job loss, with provisions to help impacted American workers and families as well as small businesses and major industries including airlines.
Under the plan, individuals who earn $75,000 in adjusted gross income or less would get direct payments of $1,200 each, with married couples earning up to $150,000 receiving $2,400 -- and an additional $500 per each child. The payment would scale down by income, phasing out entirely at $99,000 for singles and $198,000 for couples without children.
In Canada, more than a million people signed up for unemployment benefits around mid of March. The government has announced a package of C$52 billion. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the aid package will give people affected by the outbreak C$2,000 a month and delay student loan repayments, among other measures to boost the economy.
The Canadian Government will be setting up a portal by April 6 for people who have lost jobs or are unable to work to apply for monthly payments, which will run for four months.
The announcement also mentioned a temporary wage subsidy for three months will be given to the small business owners so they can keep their workers on payroll during these uncertain times.
The Australian government has committed to give A$17.6 billion into the economy to prevent the coronavirus outbreak. The package will subsidize the wages of thousand of apprentices, offer one-off cash payments for welfare recipients and deliver payments of small businesses. The extra payment will be paid to both existing and new recipients of the jobseeker payment, youth allowance jobseeker, parenting payment, farm household allowance and special benefit.
The government mentioned that the business is in a severely impacted region, community, or industry, the business may benefit from various measures that will be put in place using the $1 Bn the government has made available for this purpose.
With multiple measures being put in place, the entire world is hoping that this crisis will come to an end soon. And when all of this will be over, every country and its government will be remembered for what they did during the crisis for their citizens and the country. They will be remembered for how they sailed through the tough times and fought this long battle. This is not the only crisis that has occurred in history; such crises will come and go; it is about what we learn from this as we prepare for a better tomorrow.