Pandemic plunges 100 mn more workers into poverty: UN

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GENEVA, June 2, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – The pandemic has pushed over 100 million more workers into poverty, the UN said Wednesday, after working hours plummeted and access to good quality jobs evaporated.

In a report, the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) cautioned that the labour market crisis created by the pandemic was far from over, with employment not expected to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels until 2023 at the earliest.

The ILO’s annual World Employment and Social Outlook report indicated that the planet would be 75 million jobs short at the end of this year compared to if the pandemic had not occurred.

And it would still count 23 million fewer jobs by the end of next year.

Covid-19 “has not just been a public health crisis, it’s also been an employment and human crisis,” ILO chief Guy Ryder told reporters.

“Without a deliberate effort to accelerate the creation of decent jobs, and support the most vulnerable members of society and the recovery of the hardest-hit economic sectors, the lingering effects of the pandemic could be with us for years in the form of lost human and economic potential, and higher poverty and inequality.”

– Working hours slashed –

The report showed that global unemployment was expected to stand at 205 million people in 2022 — far higher than the 187 million in 2019.

But the situation is worse than official unemployment figures indicate.

Many people have held onto their jobs but have seen their working hours cut dramatically.

In 2020, 8.8 percent of global working hours were lost compared to the fourth quarter of 2019 — the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs.

While the situation has improved, global working hours have far from bounced back, and the world will still be short the equivalent of 100 million full-time jobs by the end of this year, the report found.

“This shortfall in employment and working hours comes on top of persistently high pre-crisis levels of unemployment, labour under-utilisation and poor working conditions,” the ILO said.

And while global employment is expected to recover more quickly in the second half of 2021 — provided the overall pandemic situation does not worsen — the ILO warned that the recovery would be highly uneven.

This, it said, was due to inequitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. So far, more than 75 percent of all the jabs have gone to just 10 countries.

– ‘Working poverty’ –

The limited capacity of most developing and emerging economies to support strong fiscal stimulus measures will also take its toll, the ILO said, warning that the quality of newly created jobs will likely deteriorate in those countries. The fall in employment and hours worked has meanwhile translated into a sharp drop in labour income and a rise in poverty.

Compared to 2019, 108 million more workers around the world were categorised as poor or extremely poor, meaning they and their families live on less than $3.20 per person per day, the study showed.

“The poverty figures are absolutely dramatic,” Ryder said, warning that five years of progress towards eradicating working poverty had been undone.

The report highlighted how the Covid-19 crisis had worsened pre-existing inequalities by hitting vulnerable workers harder.

For many of the two billion people who work in the informal sector, where social protections are generally lacking, pandemic-related work disruptions have had catastrophic consequences for family incomes and livelihoods.

The crisis has also disproportionately hit women, who have fallen out of the labour market at a greater rate than men, even as they have taken on more of the additional burden of caring for out-of-school children and others.

This, the report warned, had created the risk of a “re-traditionalisation” of gender roles.

Youth employment meanwhile fell 8.7 percent last year — more than double the 3.7 percent for older workers.

“The consequences of this delay and disruption to the early labour market experience of young people could last for years,” the ILO said.

To ensure an economic recovery and avoid a long-term scarring of the global labour market, Ryder said the world urgently needed a comprehensive and coordinated strategy backed by action and funding.

“There can be no real recovery without a recovery of decent jobs,” he said.