Job losses from virus four times as bad as 2009 financial crisis: ILO



The unprecedented disruption in due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to four times as many job losses as during the global financial crisis over a decade ago, according to a latest report from the International Labour Organisation.

New annual estimates in the seventh edition of the ‘ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work’ confirm the massive impact that labour markets suffered last year. The latest figures show that 8.8 per cent of global working hours were lost for the whole of 2020 (relative to the fourth quarter of 2019), equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs or approximately quadruple the jobs lost during the 2009 global financial crisis.

These lost working hours are accounted for either by reduced working hours for those in employment or ‘unprecedented’ levels of employment loss, hitting 114 million people. Significantly, 71 per cent of these employment losses (81 million people) came in the form of inactivity, rather than , meaning that people left the labour market because they were unable to work, perhaps because of pandemic restrictions, or simply ceased to look for work.

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Looking at unemployment alone drastically understates the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market, the report states.

These massive losses resulted in an 8.3 per cent decline in global labour income (before support measures are included), equivalent to $3.7 trillion or 4.4 per cent of global (GDP).

Impact by groups and sectors

Women have been more affected than men by the pandemic’s labour market disruptions.

Globally, employment losses for women stand at five per cent, versus 3.9 per cent for men. In particular, women were much more likely than men to drop out of the labour market and become inactive.

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Younger workers have also been particularly hard hit, either losing jobs, dropping out of labour force or delaying entry into it. The employment loss among youth (15 o 24 years old) stood at 8.7 per cent, compared to 3.7 per cent for adults. This ‘highlights the all too real risk of a lost generation’, the ILO Monitor says.

The report shows the uneven impact on different economic, geographic, and labour market sectors. It highlights concerns of a ‘K-shaped recovery’, whereby those sectors and workers hit hardest could be left behind in the recovery, leading to increasing inequality, unless corrective measures are taken.

The worst affected sector has been accommodation and food services, where employment declined by more than 20 per cent, on average, followed by and manufacturing. In contrast, employment in information and communication, and finance and insurance, increased in the second and third quarters of 2020. Marginal increases were also seen in mining, quarrying and utilities.

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Looking ahead

While there is still a high degree of uncertainty, the latest projections for 2021 show that most will experience a relatively strong recovery in the second half of the year, as vaccination programmes take effect.


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