'Highly uncertain' outlook for global labour market, UN warns

Worldwide, 14 percent of working hours were lost in the second quarter, equal to 400 million jobs, the ILO estimates.

    Workers wait to apply for unemployment insurance in Santiago, Chile - the Americas region has been hit hardest by the pandemic, losing 18.3 percent of working hours, according to the ILO [FIe: Pablo Sanhueza/Reuters]
    Workers wait to apply for unemployment insurance in Santiago, Chile - the Americas region has been hit hardest by the pandemic, losing 18.3 percent of working hours, according to the ILO [FIe: Pablo Sanhueza/Reuters]

    The outlook for the global labour market in the second half of 2020 is "highly uncertain", and the forecast recovery will not be enough for employment to return to pre-pandemic levels this year, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Tuesday.

    In its latest report, the UN agency said the fall in global working hours was "significantly worse than previously estimated" in the first half of the year. The Americas was the hardest-hit region, losing 18.3 percent of working hours.

    Worldwide, an estimated 14 percent of working hours were lost in the second quarter, equivalent to 400 million full-time jobs, due to the pandemic, the ILO said.

    It estimated that working-hour losses were likely to still be in the order of 4.9 percent in the fourth quarter, equivalent to 140 million full-time jobs. Under a pessimistic scenario in a so-called "second wave" of the pandemic, this figure could rise to 11.9 percent or 340 million jobs, it said.

    'Worsening conditions'

    "The estimates have revised upwards considerably the damage done to our labour markets by the pandemic," Guy Ryder, ILO director-general, told a Geneva news conference. "So, there is not going to be a simple or a quick recovery."

    The figures cover people who are working shorter hours, who are furloughed, have lost their jobs, or withdrawn from the labour force.

    They reflect "worsening conditions", especially in developing countries, the report said.

    Some 93 percent of workers still live in countries with some sort of workplace closures, it said.

    The pandemic has had a "disproportionate and damaging effect" on female workers, who are often employed in hard-hit sectors, such as food and accommodation, retail and real estate, Ryder said.

    Asked about Brazil not imposing strict public health measures to halt the spread of coronavirus, Ryder said, "Clearly, undue delay in acting on the health side of pandemic is going to bring worse social and economic outcomes."

    "It is inevitable ... that the world is going to begin to emerge from this pandemic with higher levels of unemployment, higher levels of poverty, higher levels of inequality, higher levels of frustration among citizens, but also higher levels of indebtedness," he said.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency