Slower‐than‐expected vaccine rollouts and a resurgence of coronavirus variants in early 2021 have dampened the global jobs recovery forecast, with losses in both working hours and employment remaining high throughout this year and into 2022, the International Labour Organization (ILO) warned on Wednesday.
The ILO said in its latest report that employment growth will be too weak to provide sufficient opportunities for people who lost jobs or working hours during the height of the pandemic and in the months that followed.
The equivalent of 10 million full‐time jobs in working hours will remain lost this year, boosting the equivalent of jobs lost during the pandemic to 100 million. That is 10 million more than the ILO had forecast in January.
Despite economies rebounding from the depths of their pandemic lows and quick action by governments to pass much-needed fiscal stimulus, the pandemic‐induced shortfall in jobs is estimated to remain at 75 million in 2021, and fall to 23 million in 2022.
Last year, global labour income was $3.7 trillion or 8.3 percent lower than the estimated pre-pandemic forecast – and the loss spilled over into the first half of 2021, with a decrease of $1.3 trillion or 5.3 percent.
Recurrent waves of COVID-19 infections have caused working‐hour losses to remain persistently high this year.
Two regions – Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe and Central Asia – have been the worst-hit ones, with estimated working‐hour losses exceeding 8 percent in the first quarter of 2021 and 6 percent in the second quarter.
The ILO warns that things will likely get worse before they get better, emphasising that the pandemic continues to aggravate inequalities and incite longer-term scarring on workers.
Working it out: Low-income countries, small business, and informal labourers
The coronavirus crisis has caused a sustained increase in unemployment. A total of 187 million people were unemployed in 2019 and 220 million in 2020; while 220 million are forecast to be unemployed in 2021 and that will only decrease to 205 million in 2022, according to the ILO.
While unemployment is expected to stay high in both rich and low-income nations, the ILO found that middle‐income countries will be most affected by joblessness. But both low‐ and middle‐income nations face a slower jobs market recovery due to limited access to coronavirus vaccines and constraints on how much fiscal spending governments can issue.
For poorer nations, the task of producing quality and productive jobs will feel like an uphill battle. According to the report, the average annual labour productivity growth for low-income countries is projected to decline to a negative rate of –1.1 percent until at least 2022.
The report also found that small businesses – especially in sectors shuttered during the pandemic such as accommodation and food services, wholesale and retail trade, construction and manufacturing – are now saddled with high levels of debt.
According to an ILO survey of 4,520 small businesses in 45 countries conducted during the height of the pandemic in 2020, up to 80 percent reported being in a financial bind.
The report also highlighted the plight of informal workers who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The global workforce is made up of roughly two billion informal workers, 2019 ILO numbers show.
These informal workers were more likely than their formal counterparts to lose jobs – and because of their lower savings rates, more likely to fall deeper into poverty.