February 20th marks the World Day of Social Justice. The day aims at focusing on poverty eradication, redistribution of wealth, equal human rights for all and the protection of those discriminated against based on race, gender, sexuality, religion and economic background.
Social justice maintains that there needs to be fairness in society. Over the past year the world has been rocked by the Covid 19 pandemic which has clearly highlighted the alarming disparities within our communities leading to mass demonstrations and social upheaval the likes that have not been seen in recent times. Some examples of social injustice being highlighted in 2021: racial and gender inequality, lack of ease with which to exercise the right to vote, disproportionate access to proper healthcare, income and food insecurity.
The Theme for 2021 is A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy.
The pandemic has kept us for the most part indoors. Work has shifted from onsite to remote working arrangements, allowing for the continuation of employment and keeping many businesses open. For others it has given rise to new opportunities, as both governments and companies scramble to bring all of their processes online, as much as possible. Persons are also now able to access jobs in different countries that were previously unavailable. There have also been instances in countries like Trinidad and Tobago, which recently held some of its Carnival activities online allowing for a few aspects of the season to continue despite the country's borders being closed.
But while this has been positive for some, for others it has highlighted the large disparities within the society, especially with schools going online. Many families do not have the access to the digital space due to reasons of access, affordability or both. For those without pre-existing ICT facilities in the home, there is the burden of unexpected purchases of equipment for both themselves and their children in order to remain both employed and facilitate their children's education. For those who have not been able to provide same, there is the dependence on good samaritans and in some instances government institutions. Unfortunately, there are too many instances of families being unable to gain access. The result is employees who have lost jobs due to their inability to work online and students who are unable to maintain their studies, which is particularly problematic for those doing exams.
On the other hand, countless businesses have shut their doors due to the inability to move their business online. For smaller companies in particular, the expense of having to move all of its processes online put a strain on their finances forcing them to close their doors.
Another challenge of the current environment is the burden placed on the mental and emotional health of both adults and children by the need to be online for extended hours of the day. Employers are demanding more access to employees at hours that traditionally they would be unavailable. With job security at the forefront of their minds employees are finding themselves overwhelmed by the demands being placed on them.
There are countries that are working towards improving the inequalities that are present. The United Nations clearly stating: "there is a need for international policy dialogue and coordination since digital labour platforms operate across multiple jurisdictions. The promotion of national, regional, and international multi-stakeholder policy dialogue and coordination is also vital to ensure regulatory certainty and the applicability of universal labour standards, given the diversity of responses by countries and platform companies."
The aim for 2021 is to encourage dialogue between stakeholders to help find solutions towards bridging the digital divides both within and between countries, as well as, provide decent work conditions, protect human rights, achieve sustainable development as well as, racial/gender equality.
At its core Social Justice seeks to give every human being an equal chance at having the life of their choosing. That does not mean that everything will be perfect for everyone, all the time, but everyone deserves the opportunity to live without fear of discrimination and marginalization. If nothing else, the Covid 19 pandemic has shown us, that it is something worth fighting for.