Global labor markets were disrupted “on a historically unprecedented scale” in 2020, the UN agency said in a new study released on Monday. According to its estimates, 8.8 percent of global working hours were lost last year against the final quarter of 2019. This is equivalent to over a quarter of a billion full-time jobs lost.
The decline in global work hours includes work-hour reduction within employment as well as employment loss. Employment loss rose to “unprecedented” levels in 2020, affecting 114 million people, with women and young people hit hardest, according to the ILO.
Covid-19 has become “the most severe crisis for the world of work since the Great Depression of the 1930s,” the agency said in its report. Even during the global financial crisis of 2008-09, average work hours declined by 0.6 hours, making the coronavirus shock “approximately four times greater.”
The dire situation in the labor market plunged workers’ earnings. The ILO figures show that global labor income declined by 8.3 percent, amounting to $3.7 trillion, or 4.4 percent of global GDP.
However, there is a silver lining, as the agency sees “tentative signs of recovery,” according to ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, though the report said there is a risk of an uneven, or K-shaped, recovery, and warned that this year is projected to see “a persistent work deficit.”
Even in the ILO’s optimistic scenario, work-hour losses could stand at 1.3 percent or 36 million full-time jobs. In the worst-case scenario, which assumes slow progress with vaccination, work-hour losses in 2021 will remain at 4.6 percent, translating to 130 million jobs.