ILO sees labor market recovery in the second half of 2021
By Liang Rui

Tentative signs of recovery are emerging in global labor markets following an unprecedented disruption in 2020, according to the latest report from the International Labor Organization (ILO). 

The report notes that the estimated recovery in the second half of 2021 is mainly thanks to vaccination programs taking effect.

Data showed that 8.8 percent of working hours globally were lost in 2020 – equaling 255 million full-time jobs. The quantum of job loss was approximately four times greater than in the 2009 global financial crisis.

Sangheon Lee, director of Employment Policy Department at ILO, said that lockdown measures and restrictive policies in containment of the coronavirus pandemic were responsible for the drop.

The massive disruption resulted in an 8.3-percent decline in global labor income (before support measures are included), equivalent to $3.7 trillion or 4.4 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP).

Female and younger workforce hit hard

Globally, employment losses for women stood at 5 percent, versus 3.9 percent for men.

Younger workers were particularly hit hard, losing their jobs, dropping out or delaying entry into the job market.

"Challenges for women and young people are already extreme. The pandemic just adds more challenges for them," said Lee. He said the pandemic had disrupted education and training programs for the young, so they might not get opportunities even after the labor market recovers.

"So it's a long-term consequence," Lee said, adding that ILO is quite worried about the youth which might not be able to catch up with the other workforce.

Uneven impact on different sectors

The worst-hit sector has been accommodation and food services, where employment declined by more than 20 percent on average. Retail and manufacturing followed to be the second worst.

In contrast, employment in information and communication and finance and insurance sectors increased in the second and third quarters of 2020. Marginal increases were also seen in mining, quarrying and utilities.

Thus, Lee suggested that people who seek job opportunities could get trained and start a new career in sectors booming during the pandemic, such as healthcare, social services, digital economy and green jobs.

Overall, he said that governments should implement more proactive and advantageous fiscal policies to support enterprises and workers, especially hard-hit groups, including self-employed and informal workers.

"In case of developing countries, their fiscal measures are very limited. We need strong global support and global solidarity," he added.

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