The World of International Organizations

ILO sees 195 million jobs lost to recession

Shoppers at a Home Depot in the Washington region on April 4, 2020 (AN/John Heilprin)
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WASHINGTON — The world’s employees will lose 6.7 percent of their working hours in the second quarter of 2020 — equivalent to 195 million jobs — amid a global recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.N. labor agency said on Tuesday.

The International Labor Organization’s latest forecast and analysis reflects the challenges of 81 percent of the 3.3 billion global workforce living in nations where partial or full lockdowns are in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Sharp and unforeseen reductions in economic activity are causing a dramatic decline in employment, both in terms of numbers of jobs and aggregate hours of work,” ILO reported. “Economic activity across whole sectors has been severely curtailed in many countries, leading to steep declines in revenue streams for many businesses.”

ILO’s forecast for the equivalent of 195 million jobs lost is based on a 48-hour work week and the monthly purchasing manager surveys of business conditions in some member nations.

Already, 1.25 billion employees, or almost two-fifths of the global workforce, work in retail, manufacturing and other types of jobs at high risk of “drastic and devastating” cuts in work hours and wages, ILO said.

Survival or collapse

Despite some national security and health officials urging nations to prepare for a pandemic, many politicians, policymakers and business executives around the world were caught flat-footed by the losses — and abrupt transition to a home-based, virtual worker-oriented economy.

ILO cautioned the spread of the virus is starting to hit developing countries where workers lack many of the safety net protections seen mainly in Europe and some other industrialized regions.

Things are even worse than three weeks ago when ILO predicted a loss of 25 million jobs. In the first quarter, it said, 30 million jobs vanished; the United States had almost 10 million job claims and European trade workers said 1 million jobs were lost in the second half of March.

“Workers and businesses are facing catastrophe in both developed and developing economies,” ILO’s Director-General Guy Ryder said in a statement. “We have to move fast, decisively and together. The right, urgent measures could make the difference between survival and collapse.”

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