ILO warns of job losses in Latin America, Caribbean due to COVID

GENEVA, Switzerland (CMC) — The International Labour Organization (ILO) said yesterday that Latin America and the Caribbean was among the regions most affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic during the first half of this year as it lamented the fact that “five years of progress towards the eradication of working poverty have been undone”.

In a newly released report, the ILO said that although countries worldwide “will emerge” from the ongoing health crisis”, nonetheless, the rate of poverty will increase.

“We’ve gone backwards, we’ve gone backwards big time,” said ILO Director General Guy Ryder. “Working poverty is back to 2015 levels; that means that when the 2030 sustainable development agenda was set, we’re back to the starting line.”

The ILO said that the worst-affected regions in the first half of 2021 have been Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and Central Asia, describing them as all victims of uneven recovery.

The ILO said they’ve seen estimated working-hour losses exceed eight per cent in the first quarter and six per cent in the second quarter, far higher than the global average of 4.8 and 4.4 per cent respectively.

It said women have been hit “disproportionately” by the crisis, registering a five per cent employment fall in 2020, compared to 3.9 per cent for men.

“A greater proportion of women also fell out of the labour market, becoming inactive,” ILO said, noting that “additional domestic responsibilities” had resulted from lockdowns which risked a “re-traditionalisation” of gender roles.

It said youth employment has also continued to suffer the economic downturn, falling 8.7 per cent in 2020, compared with 3.7 per cent for adults.

The most pronounced fall has been in middle-income countries where the consequences of this delay and disruption to the early labour market experience of young people “could last for years”, ILO warned.

It said pandemic-related disruption has also brought “catastrophic consequences” for the world’s two billion informal sector workers.

Compared to 2019, an additional 108 million workers worldwide are now categorised as “poor” or “extremely poor”, meaning that they and their families live on the equivalent of less than US$3.20 per person, per day.

“While signs of economic recovery are appearing as vaccine campaigns are ramped up, the recovery is likely to be uneven and fragile,” Ryder said, as ILO unveiled its forecast that global unemployment will reach 205 million people in 2022, up from 187 million in 2019.

The Geneva-based organisation also projected a “jobs gap” increase of 75 million in 2021, which is likely to fall to 23 million in 2022, only if the pandemic subsides.

“This shortfall in employment and working hours comes on top of persistently high pre-crisis levels of unemployment, labour underutilisation and poor working conditions,” ILO said in World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2021, (WESO Trends).

The ILO report maintained that although global employment recovery should accelerate in the second half of 2021, it will likely be an uneven recovery.

ILO insisted that unequal vaccine access is to blame, in addition to the limited capacity of most developing and emerging economies to support the strong fiscal stimulus measures that have characterised the approach of the world’s wealthiest countries to the COVID-induced downturn.

“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 and inequality,” said Ryder.

“We need a comprehensive and coordinated strategy, based on human-centred policies, and backed by action and funding. There can be no real recovery without a recovery of decent jobs,” he added.

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