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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

As COVID-19 continues unabated so would poverty persist with lesser decent jobs, per ILO

Rising poverty, fewer decent jobs seen as COVID-19 continues

MANILA – The International Labor Organization today said the labor market crisis brought by COVID-19 pandemic will persist and employment growth will remain insufficient to cover for losses suffered until 2023.

The latest assessment entitled “World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2021” (WESO Trends) projects the global crisis-induced ‘job gaps’ will reach 75 million in 2021, before falling to 23 million in 2022. The related gap in working hours, which includes the job gap and those on reduced hours, amounts to the equivalent of 100 million full-time hons in 2021 and 26 million full-time jobs in 2022.

“This shortfall in employment and working hours comes on top of persistently high pre-crisis levels of unemployment, labor underutilization and poor working conditions,” the ILO statement datelined Geneva disclosed.

Global unemployment is expected to remain at 205 million in 2022, surpassing the 187 million in 2019. According to the assessment, this corresponds to an unemployment rate of 5.7 percent. The study revealed excluding the COVID-19 crisis period, the rate was last seen in 2013.

It identified the worst affected regions during the first semester of 2021 as Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia. In these areas, estimated working-hour losses exceeded eight per cent in the first quarter and six per cent in the second quarter, compared to global working-hour losses of 4.8 percent in Q1 and 4.4 percent in Q2.

However, the assessment revealed global employment recovery is expected to accelerate in the second semester of 2021, “provided that there is no worsening in the overall pandemic situation.” It may not be a level playing field due to unequal vaccine access and limited capacity of most developing and emerging economies to support strong fiscal stimulus measures. It is also expected that the quality of newly created jobs would likely deteriorate in those countries.

The reduction in employment and hours worked has translated into a sharp drop in labor income and a corresponding rise in poverty. If one’s to compare 2019 figures, an additional 108 million workers worldwide are categorized as poor or extremely poor which means they and their families live on the equivalent of less than US$3.20 per person per day.

“Five years of progress towards the eradication of working poverty have been undone,” the report disclosed, adding that this renders the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goal for eradicating poverty by 2030 will remain elusive.

Pre-existing inequalities worsened with the COVID-19 crisis and severely affected vulnerable workers. The rampant lack of social protection among the world’s two billion informal sector workers, means that pandemic-related work disruptions have had catastrophic impacts for family incomes and livelihoods.

The COVID-19 also affected women disproportionately as employment declined by 5 per cent last year compared to 3.9 per cent for men.

“A greater proportion of women also fell out of the labor market, becoming inactive. Additional domestic responsibilities resulting from the crisis lockdowns have already created the risk of a ‘re-traditionalization’ of gender roles,” the statement revealed.

Youth employment globally fell 8,7 percent in 2020, compared with 3.7 per cent for adults, with the most pronounced fall seen in the middle-income countries. The consequences of this delay and disruption to the early labor market experience of young people could last for years. A more detailed outlook on young people’s plight is presented in a reported entitled “Update on the youth labor market impact of the COVID019 crisis.” The report also underscored the gender gaps in youth labor markets which became more pronounced.

“Recovery from COVID-19 is not just a health issue. The serious damage to economies and societies needs to be overcome too. 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 inequality,” said ILO Director-General, Buy Ryder.

He said there is a need for a comprehensive and coordinated strategy, according to human-centered policies, and backed by action and funding because there can be no real recovery without a recover of decent jobs.

The most recent WESO outlined working hour and direct employment losses and foregone job growth and highlighted a recovery strategy founded on promoting broad-based economic growth and the creation of productive employment, supporting household incomes and labor market transitions, strengthening the institutional foundations required for inclusive, sustainable and resilient economic growth and development as well as the utilization of social dialogue to develop human-centered recovery strategies. (Melo M. Acuña)

A collection of pictures of Filipinos in the informal and vulnerable sector eking out a living along Metro Manila's streets where COVID-19 persists. (Photos by Melo M. Acuna)

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