• Melo Acuna

Workers, businesses suffer from COVID-19, says ILO

COVID-19 brings uncertain livelihoods to 1.6 billion workers

MANILA – With various anti-COVID-19 measures implemented by different governments worldwide from lockdowns to work stoppage, the continued sharp decline in working hours around the globe would mean uncertainty of livelihood for 1.6 billion workers in the informal sector.

The International Labor Organization, in its statement datelined Geneva, Switzerland released late Wednesday night said the drop in working hours in the current quarter of the year is expected to be significantly worse that previously thought.

According to the ILO Monitor third edition: COVID-19 and the world of work, compared to the pre-crisis levels (Q4 2019), a 10.5 pr cent deterioration is now expected which is equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs (assuming a 48-hour working week). The initial estimate was for a 6.7 per cent drop and equivalent to 195 million full-time workers. This is due to the prolongation and extension of lockdown measures.

On a per region basis, the situation was found to have worsened for all major regional groups as estimates suggest a12.4 per cent loss of working hours for Q2 for the Americas compared to pre-crisis levels and 11.8 per cent for Europe and Central Asia. Th estimates for the rest of the regional groups follow closely and are all above 9.5 per cent.

Previous studies revealed with 1,6 billion informal economy workers coming from the most vulnerable sectors in the labor market, out of a worldwide total of two billion and a global workforce of 3.3 billion, “have suffered damage to their capacity to earn a living. This is due to lockdown measures and/or because they work in the hardest-hit sectors.”

At the onset of the crisis, experts estimated a drop of 60 per cent in the income of informal workers worldwide. This further explained into a drop of 81 per cent in Africa and the Americas, 21/6 per cent in Asia and the Pacific and 70 per cent in Europe and Central Asia.

Failure to find alternative sources of income, these workers and their families will have no means to survive.

“Without alternative income sources, these workers and their families will have no means to survive,” the ILO President Guy Ryder said.

It was learned the proportion of workers living in countries under recommended or required workplace closures has decreased from 81 to 68 per cent over the last 14 days. The decline from the previous estimate of 81 per cent in the second edition of the publication dated April 7 is primarily a result of changes in Chine as workplace closure elsewhere have increased.

More than 436 million enterprises worldwide face high risks of serious disruption. These enterprises are operating in the hardest-hit economic sectors which include some 232 million in wholesale and retail, 111 million in manufacturing, 51 million in accommodation and food services and 42 million in real estate and other business activities.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said for millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future.

“As the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent,” he explained. The most vulnerable have no savings and much more access to credit.

“These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don’t help them now, these enterprises will simply perish,” he said referring to millions of business around the world which he described as barely breathing. (Melo M. Acuña)

A street vendor in Manila at the height of enhanced community quarantine or lockdown forced to eke a living. (Melo M. Acuna)

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