The International Labour Organization has warned of job losses in the hundreds of millions as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches out over the coming months. In a late Tuesday update to the ILO Monitor study that was first published in March, the ILO said that 6.7 percent of working hours globally are likely to be lost in the second quarter of 2020—the equivalent of 195 million full-time jobs.
The bulk of the losses will be borne by the Asia Pacific region, which is estimated to lose the equivalent of 125 million full-time jobs. The actual number of people put out of work may be much higher, because based on the study, the majority of the losses will come from sectors such as retail, accommodation and food services, and manufacturing. These are sectors that tend to rely heavily on part-time and shift work, meaning that the lost working hours could represent a far greater number of jobs.
“Workers and businesses are facing catastrophe, in both developed and developing economies,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. Calling on countries around the world to work together, he pointed out: “If one country fails, then we all fail. We must find solutions that help all segments of our global society, particularly those that are most vulnerable or least able to help themselves. The choices we make today will directly affect the way this crisis unfolds and so the lives of billions of people.”
It’s difficult to say at this point in time what choices might work. The ILO estimates that 81 percent of the global workforce of 3.3 billion are currently affected by full or partial workplace closures. 1.25 billion of these people are working in low-income, low-skilled sectors, many in the informal economy, with limited access to health services and social protection. Some governments are attempting to provide relief to businesses and workers, but there is a limit to the financial support that countries can afford.
One thing is certain, however: if nothing is done, global unemployment in 2020 will soar far beyond any projections that have been made to date.