COVID-19: Half of global workforce at risk of losing livelihoods

The continued sharp decline in working hours globally due to the COVID-19 outbreak means that 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy, nearly half of the global workforce, stand in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed, warns the International Labor Organization (ILO).  Lee Kok Leong, executive editor, Maritime Fairtrade, reports

The drop in working hours in the current (second) quarter of 2020 is expected to be significantly worse than previously estimated.  Compared to pre-crisis levels (Q4 2019), a 10.5 per cent deterioration is now expected, equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs (assuming a 48-hour working week). The previous estimate was for a 6.7 per cent drop, equivalent to 195 million full-time workers. This is due to the prolongation and extension of lockdown measures. 

Regionally, the situation has worsened for all major regional groups. Estimates suggest a 12.4 per cent loss of working hours in Q2 for the Americas (compared to pre-crisis levels) and 11.8 per cent for Europe and Central Asia. The estimates for the rest of the regional groups follow closely and are all above 9.5 per cent. 

As a result of the economic crisis created by the pandemic, almost 1.6 billion informal economy workers (representing the most vulnerable in the labor market), out of a worldwide total of two billion and a global workforce of 3.3 billion, have suffered massive damage to their capacity to earn a living. This is due to lockdown measures and/or because they work in the hardest-hit sectors. 

The first month of the crisis is estimated to have resulted in a drop of 60 per cent in the income of informal workers globally. This translates into a drop of 81 per cent in Africa and the Americas, 21.6 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, and 70 per cent in Europe and Central Asia. Without alternative income sources, these workers and their families will have no means to survive. 

Worldwide, more than 436 million enterprises face high risks of serious disruption. These enterprises are operating in the hardest-hit economic sectors, including some 232 million in wholesale and retail, 111 million in manufacturing, 51 million in accommodation and food services, and 42 million in real estate and other business activities.

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