The organization describes the current economic downfall as “the worst global crisis since the Second World War.”
Rabat – The widespread economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 global pandemic is having a devastating effect on the world’s most vulnerable workers. An estimated 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy–a majority of the sector’s 2 billion total workers and nearly half of the total 3.3 billion workers worldwide–are considered to be in immediate danger of losing their livelihoods.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) describes the economic downfall as “the worst global crisis since the Second World War.”
“With further increases in income inequality among workers, an even greater proportion of informal economy workers will be left behind,” reads the most recent ILO report. The publication suggests that without alternative sources of income, the global poverty rate will increase by 34% and it will be difficult for many to survive.
The crisis, in numbers
The ILO reported a significant decline in the number of all global working hours: The first quarter of 2020 saw an estimated 4.5% decline, assuming a 48-hour working week, when compared to the fourth quarter of 2019. The organization’s estimates for this year’s second quarter look worse, with the ILO Monitor predicting a 10.5% decline.
This estimate means the total job hours lost due to the global pandemic would be equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs. The Americas (12.4%) and Europe and Central Asia (11.8%) are expected to experience the greatest loss, but all regions are affected.
In the informal sector specifically, the ILO estimates that workers around the world saw an income decrease of 60% during the first month of the crisis.
The economic crisis sheds light on increasing global inequalities. Small enterprises and informal workers often lack access to credit and are unlikely to benefit from stimulus packages and fiscal measures taken in the wake of the pandemic.
The ILO also reports women to be at a higher risk than men in the informal sector, with 42% of female informal workers performing high-risk jobs compared to men, at 32%.
The numbers are worse than the World Food Programme’s April 16 estimation that world hunger could nearly double in light of the pandemic. Concerns grow as the number of workers unable to afford food increases.
Over the past two weeks, countries have begun slowly lifting their lockdown measures. The number of workers residing in countries with required workplace closures is decreasing from 81% to 68%. Officials estimate that a large proportion of this percentage is due to China’s turnaround in the aftermath of its outbreak.
Still, the ILO stresses that the aftermath of the pandemic lockdowns around the world is a looming disaster.
“As the pandemic evolves, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes more urgent,” said Guy Ryder, Director-General of the ILO. “For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security, and no future. Millions of businesses around the world are barely breathing. They have no savings or access to credit. These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don’t help them now, these enterprises will simply perish.”
The organization emphasized that “immediate support is needed for enterprises and workers on an unprecedented scale.” The ILO has built a 4-pillar policy framework to outline the necessary steps for sustaining the global economy. Extension of credit lines, cash transfers, programs for food and shelter, and child allowances are among the framework’s many suggestions in the framework.
At its core, the ILO calls for abiding by international labor standards and strengthening employment policies, for those in the formal and informal sectors alike.