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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

"COVID-19, a major labour and economic crisis," ILO DG Ryder says

“This is also a major labour market and economic crisis that is having a huge impact on people,” says ILO Director-General Guy Ryder

MANILA – The International Labor Organization said their initial assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the global world of work shows the effects will be far-reaching and will push millions of people into unemployment, underemployment and working poverty.

In a statement datelined Geneva, Switzerland, ILO said the economic and labor crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic would likely increase global unemployment by almost 25 million. This was according to a new assessment made by the ILO.

However, should there be an “internationally coordinated policy response” similar to the global financial crisis from 2008-2009, the impact on global unemployment could be “significantly lower.”

The assessment note called for urgent, large-scale and coordinated measures across the three pillars, protecting workers in the workplace, stimulating the economy and employment, and support jobs and incomes.

Accordingly, the measures will include extension of social protection, supporting employment retention, e.g. short-time work, paid leave, other subsidies, financial and tax relief including for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

The note proposes fiscal and monetary policy measures, and lending and financial support for specific economic sectors.

The difference scenarios for the impact of COVID-19 on global GDP growth, the ILO estimates indicate a rise in global unemployment of between a low of 5.3 million and a high of 24.7 million from a base level of 188 million in 2019.

“By comparison, the 2008-2009 global financial crisis increased global unemployment by 22 million,” the ILO statement said.

Underemployment is also expected to rise on a large scale as the economic consequences of the virus outbreak translate into reductions in working hours and wages. Self-employment in developing countries which often serves to cushion the impact of changes, may not do so this time because of restrictions on the movement of people, as in the case of service providers and goods.

The decrease in employment would mean large income losses for workers as the study estimates these as being between US$860 billion and US$3.4 trillion by the end of the year. This weill further translate into falls in consumption of goods and services and would surely affect the prospects for businesses and economies.

Working poverty wll also increase significantly as “the strain on incomes resulting from the decline in economic activity will devastate works close to or below the poverty line.” ILO estimates between to 8,8 and 35 million additional people will be in working poverty worldwide compared to the original estimate for 2020 which projected a decline of 14 million worldwide.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said COVID-19 “is no longer only a global health crisis, it is also a major labour market and economic crisis that is having a huge impact on people.”

“In 2008, the world presented a united front to address the consequences of the global financial crisis, and the worst was averted. We need that kind of leadership and resolve now,” Mr. Ryder explained.

ILO expressed concern certain groups will be disproportionately affected by the jobs crisis, which could increase inequality. These would include people in less protected and low-paid jobs, specifically youth and older workers. Women and migrants, too. The latter are vulnerable due to the lack of social protection and rights, and women tend to be over-represented in low-paid jobs and affected sectors.

Director-General Ryder said social dialogue is required by engaging workers and employers and their representatives to build public trust and support for measured needed to overcome the crisis. He added international labour standards will provide a tried-and-trusted foundation for policy responses that focus on a recovery that is sustainable and equitable.

“Everything needs to be done to minimize the damage to people at this difficult time,” Mr. Ryder concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder in file photo with this writer. (Minette Rimando/ILO Manila)

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