Coronavirus could kill livelihoods of almost half the global workforce: ILO

Some 1.6 billion workers making up nearly half of the global workforce could lose their livelihoods to the coronavirus crisis, international officials warn.

Those at-risk workers have jobs in the “informal economy” that won’t pay them if they get sick or stay home amid widespread lockdowns aimed at controlling the deadly virus, according to the International Labor Organization.

The group known as the ILO expects earnings to plunge 60 percent in the first month of the crisis for the world’s 2 billion informal workers. They have poor access to health care and benefits like sick leave, making them the most vulnerable of the world’s 3.3 billion workers, officials say.

“As the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent,” ILO director-general Guy Ryder said in a Wednesday statement. “For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future.”

The ILO predicted that the coronavirus will have an even deeper impact on the global labor market than previously thought with roughly two thirds of the world’s workers living in countries where workplaces have been required or recommended to close.

The group expects total working hours to plunge by 10.5 percent in the second quarter of this year, which is equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs. That’s worse than the 6.7 percent drop the ILO previously predicted and more than double the 4.5 percent decline estimated for first quarter.

And about 436 million businesses and self-employed workers in hard-hit industries face “high risks of serious disruption,” including 232 million in wholesale and retail and 111 million in manufacturing, the ILO said in a Wednesday report.

“The eventual increase in global unemployment over 2020 will depend substantially on how the world economy fares in the second half of the year and how effectively policy measures will preserve existing jobs and boost labor demand once the recovery phase begins,” the report reads.

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