UN Report: Job Losses Four Times Greater Than in 2009 Financial Crisis

Concept of business failure and unemployment problem.
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New estimates confirm the massive impact labor markets suffered in 2020, with 8.8% of global working hours lost last year — a figure about four times greater than the number lost during the 2009 global financial crisis, according to the International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency.

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However, “tentative signs of recovery are emerging” in global labor markets, following the massive disruption in 2020 due to the pandemic, according to the report on the effects of the pandemic on the workforce, released by ILO.

“The signs of recovery we see are encouraging, but they are fragile and highly uncertain, and we must remember that no country or group can recover alone,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder in a statement. “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. The other focuses on a human-centred recovery for building back better, prioritizing 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.”

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While the disruption was global, there were notable regional differences. Working-hour losses in 2020 were particularly large in Latin America and the Caribbean, Southern Europe and Southern Asia, the report notes. “In contrast, Eastern Asia and Central, Western and Eastern Africa experienced relatively smaller working-hour losses, reflecting less stringent lockdown measures in these subregions,” according to the report.

The ILO offers a series of policy recommendations for recovery in its report, including macroeconomic policies to remain accommodative in 2021 and beyond, such as fiscal stimulus where possible, and measures to support incomes and promote investment; targeted measures to reach women, young people, low-skilled and low-paid workers; international support for low- and middle-income countries, which have fewer financial resources to roll out vaccines and promote economic and employment recovery; focusing support on the hardest-hit sectors while creating jobs in fast growing ones; and social dialogue to implement the recovery strategies necessary to create more inclusive, fair, sustainable economies.

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In all the recovery scenarios presented in the report, the Americas, Europe and Central Asia would experience about twice as many working-hour losses as other regions.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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