labour market implications
• It is estimated
that at least 23 million workers aged 15-49—the most productive segment
of the labour force—carry the HIV virus. It is devastating the lives
of individuals, their families and communities. In the most affected
countries, the epidemic is undermining decades of development gains.
It is a real threat to social and economic progress.
• HIV/AIDS hits
the world of work in numerous ways. In badly affected countries, it
cuts the supply of labour and slashes income for many workers. Increased
absenteeism raises labour costs for employers. As illness forces workers
to leave their jobs, valuable skills and experience are lost. Often,
a mismatch between human resources and labour requirements is the outcome.
• Along with
lower productivity and profitability, tax contributions also decline,
while the need for public services increases. National economies, especially
in badly affected regions like sub-Saharan Africa, are being weakened
further in a period when they are struggling to become more competitive
in order to weather the challenges of globalization.
HIV/AIDS and basic
• AIDS threatens
fundamental principles and rights at work and undermines efforts to
provide women and men with decent and productive work in conditions
of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Many affected by HIV/AIDS
have no social protection or medical help. The poor suffer disproportionately.
against HIV-positive persons (or even people suspected of carrying the
virus) worsens existing inequalities in society. Screening people for
HIV infection, in order to bar them from work, deny them promotion or
exclude them from social protection and benefits, counts as AIDS-related
discrimination. So do breaches of confidentiality or the refusal to
establish alternative workplace arrangements for workers with HIV/AIDS.
• As the epidemic
strikes families and households, more children are forced out of school
and into child labour, often into exploitative and extremely hazardous
forms of work. Young female orphans are especially vulnerable to sexual
Women, work and
• Gender inequality—linked
to patterns of social, economic and cultural inequality—makes women
more vulnerable to infection. As the epidemic spreads, women are faced
with the double burden of having to work and cope with the additional
responsibilities of providing care and support to family and community
members who fall ill.
• Most women
are still confronted with limited access to secure livelihoods and socioeconomic
opportunities. As a result, their dependence on male partners—and their
subsequent vulnerability to circumstances that may carry risks of HIV
• Research suggests
that men working in occupations that involve spending long periods away
from their families are more likely to engage in unsafe sex. This also
increases the risks that their partners might become infected with HIV.
The ILO Code of
Practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work
• In June 2001,
the International Labour Organization adopted a Code of Practice on
HIV/AIDS and the World of Work. The fundamental aim of the Code is to
help safeguard conditions of decent work and protect the rights and
dignity of workers and all people living with HIV/AIDS.
• The Code is
intended to help prevent the spread of the epidemic, mitigate its impact
on workers and their families, and provide social protection that can
help them cope with the disease. The Code provides practical guidance
to governments, employers and workers’ organizations (as well as other
stakeholders) for developing national and workplace HIV/AIDS policies
• The Code addresses
several important issues, including preventing infection through information,
education and gender-awareness programmes, and by promoting behaviour
change. It covers the protection of workers’ rights (including employment
protection, gender equality, entitlement to benefits and non-discrimination
on the basis of HIV status). And it deals with the challenges of care
and support (including confidential voluntary counselling and testing,
as well as treatment in settings where local health systems are inadequate).
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