Looking back: Labour market disruptions in the first half of 2020 Workplace closures
- The vast majority, namely, 93 per cent, of the world’s workers continue to reside in countries with some sort of workplace closure measure in place. This global share has remained relatively stable since mid-March, but with a marked shift towards softer measures. Currently, the Americas is experiencing the highest level of restrictions on workers and workplaces.
Working-hour losses: Much larger than previously estimated
The latest ILO estimates show that workinghour losses have worsened during the first half of 2020, reflecting the deteriorating situation in recent weeks, especially in developing countries. During the first quarter of the year, an estimated 5.4 per cent of global working hours (equivalent to 155 million full-time jobs) were lost relative to the fourth quarter of 2019. Workinghour losses for the second quarter of 2020 relative to the last quarter of 2019 are estimated to reach 14.0 per cent worldwide (equivalent to 400 million full-time jobs), with the largest reduction (18.3 per cent) occurring in the Americas.
The factors driving the decline in working hours vary considerably across the countries for which relevant data are available. In some countries, shorter working hours and “being employed but not working” (e.g. where workers are put on temporary leave) contributed significantly to the decline, while in others, the main driving factor was people being pushed into unemployment and inactivity. These variations suggest that a narrow focus on unemployment does not allow a proper assessment of the pandemic’s impact on the labour market.
With disproportionate impact on women workers
- Since the COVID-19 crisis is disproportionately affecting women workers in many ways, there is a risk of losing some of the gains made in recent decades and exacerbating gender inequalities in the labour market. In contrast to previous crises, women’s employment is at greater risk than men’s, particularly owing to the impact of the downturn on the service sector. At the same time, women account for a large proportion of workers in front-line occupations, especially in the health and social care sectors. Moreover, the increased burden of unpaid care brought by the crisis affects women more than men.
Looking ahead: Outlook and policy challenges Outlook for the second half of 2020
- ILO projections suggest that the labour market recovery during the second half of 2020 will be uncertain and incomplete. In the baseline scenario, working-hour losses are likely to still be in the order of 4.9 per cent (equivalent to 140 million full-time jobs) in the fourth quarter of the year.
However, under the pessimistic scenario, which assumes a second wave of the pandemic in the second half of 2020, working-hour losses would be as high as 11.9 per cent (equivalent to 340 million full-time jobs) in the last quarter. Even in the optimistic scenario, which assumes a fast recovery, global working hours are unlikely to return to the pre-crisis level by the end of 2020.
Policies for a job-rich recovery
The actual labour market outcomes in the remainder of 2020 will be shaped by policy choices and actions as well as by the pandemic’s ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work. Fifth edition 2 future trajectory. To date, most countries have deployed resources on an unprecedented scale to boost the economy and employment through fiscal, monetary, social protection and other policies. Yet, fiscal space is limited particularly in a number of low- and middle-income countries.
Moving to a job-rich recovery will require addressing key challenges, including (a) finding the right policy balance; (b) sustaining interventions on the necessary scale; (c) supporting vulnerable and hard-hit groups and generating fairer labour market outcomes; (d) securing international solidarity and support; and (e) strengthening social dialogue and respect for rights at work. An important reference for tackling these challenges is provided in the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work (2019), which sets out a humancentred approach for increasing investment in people’s capabilities, in the institutions of work, and in decent and sustainable jobs for the future.