Coronavirus outbreak could lead to loss of 25 million jobs, UN agency warns

By Isabel Saco

Geneva, Mar 18 (efe-epa).- The coronavirus outbreak could cause the loss of up to 25 million jobs, although this impact would be reduced if there is rapid coordination between governments, according to an analysis published by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization (ILO) Wednesday.

Measures should focus on maintaining employment through subsidies if necessary, fiscal and financial relief, and loans and financial support to specific sectors and companies, the organisation recommended.

It predicted that in the best-case scenario, if Covid-19 is contained in a short time and economic activities resume in affected countries, 5.3 million jobs would be lost.

The worst-case scenario would see the destruction of employment that could affect 24.7 million people, the ILO warned.

Experts based their calculations from a base of 188 million people currently unemployed around the world.

A medium scenario estimated a loss of 13 million jobs, half of them in high-income countries.

Even in the most positive scenario possible, workers will still suffer on a similar scale to the 2008 financial crisis, when unemployment increased by 22 million, according to the ILO analysis.

Underemployment is also likely to increase as the crisis will result in lower wages and more hours of work, while people who work in the private sector or are self-employed will also suffer from the effects.

The ILO said preliminary estimates indicated that 30,000 months of work had been lost from workers infected with the coronavirus up until the last 10 days, resulting in a loss of earnings for those not protected by labour laws.

The total loss of generated income could range between $860 billion and $3.4 trillion.

Workers who suffer from a loss or reduction in income will also consume less, which in turn would have an impact on the manufacturing and service sectors.

The ILO warned that the reduction in income resulting from the decline in economic activity will be devastating for workers whose income was already low and for those living below the poverty line.

This could result in 8.8 million people in working poverty, with young people and women likely to be the worst affected.

The former because they are already in the category with the highest unemployment and underemployment, while women are overrepresented in the service sector, which has suffered the most from lockdown measures and the uncertainty created by the pandemic.

In addition to this, various countries have ordered the closure of schools, which will also hit female workers harder, as they tend to be the ones who stay at home looking after children and other dependents.

The ILO said a number of measures could be taken to reduce the economic impact of the outbreak, including schemes to compensate workers for lost hours.

It also advocated provisions that prohibit terminating an immigrant worker’s contract if they are ill or in isolation, such as one applied in China and financial programs to help poorer families. EFE-EPA


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