Q1 employment hour losses equivalent of 140M jobs: Global labor body

Int'l Labor Organization says pandemic crisis far from over, work shortfall to continue despite jobs growth.

Q1 employment hour losses equivalent of 140M jobs: Global labor body

The International Labor Organization said Wednesday the COVID-19 crisis is far from over, and it estimates that in the first quarter of this year, 4.8% of working hours were lost, amounting to 140 million full-time jobs.

The ILO released its World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2021, 15 months after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

"We estimate that in the first quarter of this year 2021, 4.8% of total working hours were lost as a result of the COVID crisis, and that is the equivalent of 140 million full-time jobs," said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder in a virtual news conference from Geneva.

He said the labor market crisis created by the pandemic is far from over, and employment growth will not be enough to make up for the losses.

"It's not just been a public health crisis. It's also been an employment and human crisis as well," said Ryder.

Global unemployment is expected to stand at 205 million people in 2022, significantly surpassing 187 million in 2019.

He said this corresponds to a global unemployment rate of 5.7%.

Rate last seen in 2013

Excluding the COVID-19 crisis period, such a rate was last seen in 2013.

The worst affected regions in the first half of 2021 have been Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe and Central Asia.

In both, estimated working-hour losses exceeded 8% in the first quarter and 6% in the second quarter, compared to global working-hour losses of 4.8% in the first quarter and 4.4% in the second quarter.

Still, he said that in the second half of 2021, the ILO anticipates significant employment growth.

"However, this will be uneven and not enough to repair the damage caused by the crisis. And so, if we take 2021 as a whole, the average shortfall in working hours is projected to be the equivalent of 100 million full-time jobs," said Ryder.

The fall in employment and hours worked has translated into a sharp drop in labor income and a corresponding rise in poverty.

Compared to 2019, an additional 108 million workers worldwide are now categorized as poor or extremely poor (meaning they and their families live on the equivalent of less than $3.20 per person per day).

"Five years of progress towards the eradication of working poverty have been undone," Ryder said.

The report says that this renders the attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating poverty by 2030 "even more elusive."