Virus costs world 255m jobs last year, says UN

AFP
The coronavirus pandemic took a huge toll on global jobs last year, the United Nations said on Monday, with the equivalent of more than a quarter of a billion lost.
AFP
Virus costs world 255m jobs last year, says UN
Reuters

A sign reads “Buy American” in shop window in the Northampton County city of Easton, Pennsylvania, US, on October 1, 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic took a huge toll on global jobs last year, the United Nations said on Monday, with the equivalent of more than a quarter of a billion lost.

In a fresh study, the UN’s International Labour Organization found that 8.8 percent of global working hours were lost in 2020, compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.

That is equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs, or “approximately four times greater than the number lost during the 2009 global financial crisis,” the ILO said in a statement.

“This has been the most severe crisis for the world of work since the Great Depression of the 1930s,” said ILO chief Guy Ryder.

COVID-19 has killed more than 2.1 million people, infected tens of millions and hammered the global economy.

The ILO said that around half of the lost working hours were from reduced working hours for those remaining in employment.

But the world also saw “unprecedented levels of employment loss” last year.

Official global unemployment shot up by 1.1 percent, or 33 million more people, to a total of 220 million and a worldwide jobless rate of 6.5 percent.

Ryder stressed another 81 million people did not register as unemployed but “simply dropped out of the labor market.”

“Either they are unable to work perhaps because of pandemic restrictions or social obligations or they have given up looking for work,” he said.

“And so their talents, their skills, their energy have been lost, lost to their families, lost to our society, lost to us all.”

The lost working hours last year shrank global labor income by 8.3 percent. That amounts to a drop of US$3.7 trillion, or 4.4 percent of overall global gross domestic product.

The emergence of several safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 has raised hopes that the world will soon be able to rein in the pandemic.

However, the ILO cautioned that the prospects for a global labor market recovery this year are “slow, uneven and uncertain.”

The organization pointed to the uneven impact the crisis had on the world’s workers, affecting women and younger workers far more than others.

Globally, employment losses for women last year was 5 percent, compared with 3.9 percent for men. Women are more likely to work in the harder-hit sectors of the economy, and also have taken on more of the burden of caring for children forced to stay home from school due to lockdown measures.

Younger workers were also far more likely to lose jobs, with employment loss among 15-24-year-olds at 8.7 percent, compared with 3.7 percent for older workers.

Many young people also put off trying to enter the labor market given the complicated conditions, the ILO found, warning there was an “all too real risk of a lost generation.”

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