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UN: Covid-19 pushes 100 million more workers into poverty

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) 2021 report on World Employment and Social Outlook includes concerning figures for the labour market. The recently-released report indicates that the planet would be 75 million jobs short at the end of the year compared to the situation if the pandemic had not occurred.

By Vatican News staff writer

The disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have forced over 100 million more workers into poverty worldwide, a UN labour agency said in a report released on Wednesday.

Relative to 2019, an estimated 108 million more workers around the world were categorized as moderately or extremely poor, indicating that their families survive on less than $3.20 per person per day, according to the International Labour Organization’s annual World Employment and Social Outlook report

This significant increase in poverty is due to lost working hours amid lockdown measures implemented during the pandemic, outright job losses, and a decline in access to good quality jobs.

“Five years of progress towards the eradication of working poverty have been undone, as working poverty rates have now reverted to those of 2015,” the report said.

Labour market hard-hit

The ILO cautions that the labour market crisis created by the pandemic is still far from over and employment is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023 at the earliest.

At the end of 2021, the planet would still be 75 million jobs short compared to if the pandemic had not occurred, and it would still count an estimated 23 million fewer jobs by the end of next year.

The process of globally uneven economic recovery is expected to begin from the second half of 2021 with the progress in vaccination and large-scale fiscal spending.

Recovery efforts are projected to result in the creation of 100 million jobs this year and an additional 80 million jobs in 2022.

Worsening pre-existing inequalities

The report further highlighted that the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities in the labour market with lower-skilled workers, women, young people and migrants among the most affected.

Many micro and small business enterprises have also gone bankrupt or are facing an uncertain future.

In fact, the report notes that roughly two billion workers - or 60.1 percent of the globally employed - were working informally in 2019, with informal employees “three times more likely than their formal counterparts, and 1.6 times more likely than the self‑employed, to lose their jobs as a result of the crisis.”

The crisis has also threatened to jeopardize progress on gender equality, as women have fallen out of the labour market at a greater rate than men, and many have taken up the role of caring for out-of-school children, resulting in an increase in their unpaid working time.

At the same time, many migrant workers have experienced abrupt terminations of their employment, along with non-payment or delayed payment of their wages. Many of them also lack access to social protection benefits that could make up for their income losses.

Human-centered policy agenda needed

In light of the dire situation, the report recommends a comprehensive and concerted human-centered policy agenda structured along four points:

First, the promotion of a broad-based economic growth and the creation of productive employment through investment in sectors that can provide good jobs and can support gender equality and a vibrant labour market.

In addition, there is a need to support household incomes and labour market transitions for the most affected during the crisis through labour market policies and publicly provided quality care services.

A human-centered recovery should also strengthen institutional foundations of inclusive, sustainable and resilient economic growth by enhancing social protection systems and ensuring safe and health working conditions for all workers.

Lastly, the report calls for increased engagement in social dialogue between governments, employers’ and workers’ associations to promote effective implementation of human-centered recovery strategies.

03 June 2021, 11:28