The World of International Organizations

ILO warns of high job losses among youth

Young workers wheeling goods through Cairo's streets (AN/Francisco Anzola)

GENEVA (Arête News) — At least one of every six young workers has been idled during the COVID-19 pandemic and their long-term unemployment could create a “lockdown generation,” the U.N. labor agency warned on Wednesday.

The International Labor Organization, reporting on the pandemic’s devastating economic impacts worldwide, said the equivalent of 305 million full-time jobs were lost in the second quarter of this year, while the working hours of those who remain employed have been cut by 23 percent on average.

Youth have disproportionately suffered, said ILO’s 24-page report with updated estimates and analysis, and the massive job losses since February have affected young women more than young men.

“The COVID-19 economic crisis is hitting young people — especially women — harder and faster than any other group,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said in a statement. “If we do not take significant and immediate action to improve their situation, the legacy of the virus could be with us for decades.”

Ryder warned that sidelining a generation of young people’s “talent and energy” damages everyone and makes it that much harder for economies to rebuild. He emphasized that young people excluded from the labor market — the report focuses on workers aged 15 to 24 — can be scarred by the experience.

“Their education is being interrupted. There’s nowhere for young, new entrants on the labor market to go,” Ryder said in a video posted on Twitter. “We really do run the risk of creating a lockdown generation unless we act on a massive scale and quickly to help these people.”

Importance of testing and tracing

The 2019 youth unemployment rate of 13.6 percent already was higher than for any other demographic. That meant 267 million young people were not working or getting education and training even before the pandemic hit this year. Many of those who were still working had low-paid informal or migrant jobs.

On Monday, the World Health Organization warned that the first wave of the pandemic has not ended and a “second peak” may occur with global infections and deaths still increasing, even as nations eased up on coronavirus lockdowns. The United States, Brazil and Russia had the largest number of cases.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 5 million less than a week ago with a global death toll of more than 328,000, as cases also grew in Africa, Central and South America, and South Asia. Areas with dense populations, including poor, urban hubs and refugee settlements, were particularly vulnerable.

The ILO recommended rigorous virus testing and contact tracing to reduce labor market disruptions. It said nations with strong testing and tracing reduced losses in working hours by as much as 50 percent, because it cut reliance on strict confinement measures and promoted public and consumer onfidence.

The largest quarterly losses in working hours were in the Americas, 13.1 percent, and in Europe and Central Asia, 12.9 percent.

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