The International Labor Organization has warned that the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic will put almost half the global workforce, equivalent to 1.6 billion people, in “immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed”.
About 2 billion of the total global working population of 3.3 billion are either self employed or are employed by the “informal economy” where employment is often on short-term contract basis. The ILO warned that about 60 per cent of the wages of these workers have been cut off just in the first month of the coronavirus pandemic induced economic crisis. The ULIO further warned that out of that number about 1.6 billion employees face the threat of job losses and livelihoods.
“It shows I think in the starkest possible terms that the jobs employment crisis and all of its consequences is deepening by comparison with our estimates of three weeks ago,” the UN agency’s director general, Guy Ryder, told a briefing, foreseeing a “massive” poverty impact.
“For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. Millions of businesses around the world are barely breathing,” said Ryder. “They have no savings or access to credit. These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don’t help them now, they will simply perish.”
The rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic in North and South America, through the United States and Brazil respectively, have made these two regions among the worst affected. However the threat of disappearance of livelihood also looms large over the self-employed and contract workers in Europe.
The ILO expects a loss of 12.4 per cent in the loss of working hours in the Americas during the second quarter of the current year compared to the levels before the crisis. The global body expects that number to be at 11.8 per cent for Europe and central Asia. This equates to a possible fall in incomes of people employed in the informal sector of about 81 per cent in Africa and the Americas, a drop of 21.6 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, and a 70 per cent fall in in Europe and central Asia.
There has been opening up of thousands of businesses in China m and consequently increase in the hours of their workers, as the country eased its strict lockdown measures. This development also meant that there had been an increase in the incomes of employed workers at a global level, the ILO said.
In order to address the imminent threat that is being faced by the most vulnerable workers of the world, governments across the globe should urgently expand their bailout programmes to include “targeted and flexible measures to support workers and businesses, particularly smaller enterprises, those in the informal economy and others who are vulnerable, the ILO said.
“The pandemic has laid bare just how precarious, just how fragile, just how unequal our world of work is. It is commonly said that this pandemic does not discriminate, and in medical terms that is right. We can all be struck by the pandemic,” Ryder said.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)