The coronavirus pandemic is having a bigger impact on jobs than previously feared, the United Nations said on Wednesday, with hundreds of millions of jobs lost and workers suffering a “massive” drop in income.
In a new study, the International Labor Organization (ILO) found that by the midpoint of the year, global working hours had fallen 17.3 percent compared to last December – the equivalent of nearly 500 million full-time jobs.
That is nearly 100 million more jobs equivalent than the figure estimated by the ILO in June, when it was estimated that 14 percent of working hours would be lost by the end of the second three-month period this year.
“The impact has been catastrophic,” ILO chief Guy Ryder told reporters in a virtual briefing, pointing out that global labor income has shrunk by 10.7 percent during the first nine months of this year compared to the same period in 2019.
That translates to an estimated $ 3.5 trillion, or 5.5 percent reduction in total global gross domestic product (GDP), the ILO said.
Since emerging in China late last year, the new coronavirus has killed nearly a million people worldwide from the more than 31 million infected.
In addition to health challenges, lockdowns, travel restrictions and other measures taken to contain the virus have had a devastating effect on jobs and incomes around the world.
The ILO also warned that the outlook for the last three months of 2020 has “deteriorated significantly” since its last report in June.
The organization previously estimated that global working hours would be 4.9 percent lower in the fourth quarter than a year earlier, but said it now expects an 8.6 percent decline, which corresponds to 245 million full-time jobs.
This explains that workers in developing countries and emerging economies, especially those working in informal jobs, are more affected than in the previous crisis.
The ILO also pointed out that although many of the most stringent workplace closures have been relaxed, 94 percent of the world’s workers are in countries where some sort of workplace restriction remains in place.
Dan Sangheon Lee, head of the ILO’s labor policy division, warned that the labor situation could worsen.
If the second wave of infections brings tighter restrictions and new lockdowns, he said, “the impact on the labor market could be comparable to the magnitude we saw in the second quarter of this year”.
Ryder warned those encouraging policymakers to focus on the economy rather than health in response to the pandemic.
“It is very clear … that the capacity and speed of the global economy to emerge from a labor market slump is closely linked to our capacity to contain the pandemic,” he said.
“These two things are very closely related, and we must act on that understanding.”
Meanwhile, the ILO report shows that the labor market crash could be worse without the many fiscal stimulus packages provided by the government.
Without such stimulus efforts – totaling about $ 9.6 trillion globally – global working hours would have shrunk by a full 28 percent in the second quarter, he said.
But he warned that fiscal stimulus was being delivered very unevenly, with low and middle-income countries receiving about $ 982 billion less in overall support than their wealthy counterparts.
Ryder urged international efforts to close the loophole, insisting that “no group, country or region can resolve this crisis alone.”