'Unprecedented numbers': 114 million workers lost their jobs due to pandemic, ILO says

'Unprecedented numbers': 114 million workers lost their jobs due to pandemic, ILO says
An unprecedented number of people have been left unemployed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the International Labour Organisation said in a report.
3 min read
26 January, 2021
The global health crisis has brought much of the world to a standstill [Getty]

More than 114 million workers were made unemployed due to the global health crisis in 2020, the United Nations' International Labour Organisation (ILO) revealed.

Some 8.8 percent of global work hours were lost, the agency said, noting this was more than four times the number lost during the 2009 financial crisis.

Compared to 2019, the hourly loss is equivalent to about 255 million full-time jobs, the report on the coronavirus crisis revealed.

"Significantly, 71 percent of these employment losses (81 million people) came in the form of inactivity, rather than unemployment, meaning that people left the labour market because they were unable to work, perhaps because of pandemic restrictions, or simply ceased to look for work," the ILO said.

The report also suggests that women were the most affected by the market disruptions caused by the pandemic. Some 5 percent of women were made unemployed due to the health crisis, compared with 3.9 percent for men.

Similarly, younger workers were also hit hard by the health crisis. 

Among 15-24 year olds, the employment loss stood at 8.7 percent, compared to 3.7 percent for adults.

This "highlights the all too real risk of a lost generation", the report notes.

However, despite the "unprecedented" numbers, signs of recovery are slowly emerging.

"The latest projections for 2021 show that most countries will experience a relatively strong recovery in the second half of the year, as vaccination programmes take effect," ILO said.

But the agency's Director-General Guy Ryder warned that while the signs of recovery are encouraging, they are fragile and highly uncertain.

Read also: Filipino women and girls recruited to work in UAE 'trafficked to Syria': report

"We must remember that no country or group can recover alone... We are at a fork in the road. One path leads to an uneven, unsustainable, recovery with growing inequality and instability, and the prospect of more crises," Ryder said. 

"The other focuses on a human-centred recovery for building back better, prioritising employment, income and social protection, workers' rights and social dialogue. If we want a lasting, sustainable and inclusive recovery, this is the path policy-makers must commit to."

Among Middle Eastern countries, the health crisis also had a major impact on their labour markets.

Earlier this week, the Saudi General Authority for Statistics revealed that the kingdom's labour market lost more than a quarter of a million foreign workers due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The number of foreign workers decreased by around 257,200 workers compared to the second quarter of 2020, the statistics showed.

The total number of foreign workers stood at 10,459,032 in the second quarter of last year. In the following quarter, this decreased to 10,201,862.

The official numbers also confirmed 2.4 percent of business owners were forced to liquidate companies due to an absense of profits.

The numbers come as countries around the world, including the Middle East and North Africa region, rollout inoculation programmes to vaccinate their citizens and residents.

Across the world, more than 100 million people have been infected with the novel coronavirus.  Though millions have recovered, Covid-19 has killed more than 2 million across the globe.

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