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ILO Calling for Revisions to Address Physical, Psychological Problems Stemming from Changing Job World

U.N. labor agency says existing methods of protecting workers from accidents and disease are not good enough to deal with new occupational hazards arising from changes in the nature of work

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FILE - A worker programs a tablet to control SAM, a semi-automated mason, as it works on the facade of a school in the south Denver suburb of Englewood, Colorado, Feb. 27, 2018. VOA

The U.N. labor agency says existing methods of protecting workers from accidents and disease are not good enough to deal with new occupational hazards arising from changes in the nature of work. The International Labor Organization (ILO) is calling for revisions to address physical and psychological problems stemming from the changing job world.

In a new report, ILO estimates find 2.78 million workers die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases each year. It says more than 374 million people are injured or fall ill every year through work-related accidents. The cost to the world economy from work days lost is nearly four percent of global Gross Domestic Product.

The ILO’s report warns the changes and dangers posed by an increase in technology could result in a worsening of that situation. It says new measures must be implemented to deal with the psycho-social risks, work-related stress and non-communicable diseases resulting from new forms of work.

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FILE – Technicians make final inspections to vehicles on an assembly line at the Nissan Canton Assembly Plant, in Canton, Mississippi, March 19, 2018. VOA

It says digitization, artificial intelligence, robotics and automatization require new monitoring methods to protect workers.

Manal Azzi, an ILO Technical Specialist on Occupational Safety and Health, says that on the one hand, new technology is freeing workers from many dirty, dangerous jobs. On the other, she says, the jobs can raise ethical concerns.

She told VOA surveillance of workers has become more intrusive, leading them to work longer hours, a situation that may not be ethical.

“Also, different monitoring systems that workers wear. Before, you would punch in, punch out. Now, you could wear bands on your wrist that show how many hours you are actually working in a production line. And, there is even discussion of introducing implants, where workers can be continuously surveyed on their production processes,” she said.

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ILO estimates find 2.78 million workers die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases each year. Wikimedia

Azzi said a host of mental problems could be introduced by new work environments. The report also focuses on changes in demographics. It says employers have to adapt to the physical needs of older workers, who may need training to safely operate equipment.

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Another area of concern is climate change. The ILO is positive about the green jobs being introduced. But it says care must be taken to protect people from warmer temperatures that increase risks, including air pollution, heat stress, and newly emerging diseases.

In the past, creating a safer working environment focused on the prevention of risks. Authors of the report say the ILO today needs to anticipate the risks. They say new skills and information about safety and health in the workplace have to be learned at an earlier age. Before young people apply for a job, they say, they should know their rights. The power of knowledge, they say, will help protect employees in the workplace. (VOA)

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South Africa’s President Vows More Jobs at Election Rally

Addressing the ANC's final rally Sunday, Ramaphosa promised more jobs, economic growth and a drive against corruption at the rally

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President of South Africa's governing African National Congress Cyril Ramaphosa waves to his supporters, as he arrives for the party's final rally at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, May 5, 2019. VOA

Campaigning for South Africa’s upcoming elections reached a climax Sunday with mass rallies by the ruling party and one of its most potent challengers, ahead of national elections for president and parliament Wednesday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela which has been in power since apartheid ended 25 years ago, is expected to win the elections but is dogged by allegations of corruption and lackluster economic performance. The ANC’s margin of victory is expected to decline from the 62 percent of the vote it received in the previous elections in 2014.

Addressing the ANC’s final rally Sunday, Ramaphosa promised more jobs, economic growth and a drive against corruption at the rally. “Our young people want jobs and they want them now,” said Ramaphosa, who promised to reduce the country’s unemployment rate of 27 percent. “We know what needs to be done to increase jobs, to grow the economy.”

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“Our young people want jobs and they want them now,” said Ramaphosa, who promised to reduce the country’s unemployment rate of 27 percent. “We know what needs to be done to increase jobs, to grow the economy.” Pixabay

He pledged to raise 1.4 trillion rand ($100 billion) to invest in the country’s economy to create jobs. Ramaphosa was speaking to thousands of ANC supporters wearing the party’s yellow, black and green colors at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park rugby stadium, which was nearly full its 62,000 capacity.

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Ramaphosa came to power last year after previous president Jacob Zuma, also of the ANC, was forced to resign amid widespread scandals. “We’ve taken decisive steps to fight corruption across the country,” said Ramaphosa. “The era of impunity is over. We are now in an era of accountability.” However, the view that the ANC tolerates corruption is expected to hurt the party in the polls.

On the other side of Johannesburg, in in Soweto, the city’s largest black township, thousands gathered for a competing rally by the Economic Freedom Fighters, a populist, leftist party. Firebrand leader Julius Malema, who split from the ANC, is set to address the rally, despite the death of his grandmother Saturday. Malema has campaigned on vows to expropriate white-owned land without compensation and to nationalize the country’s mines. (VOA)