About 1.6 billion people – nearly half of the global workforce – are in “immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed,” according to the Geneva-based International Labour Organization (ILO).
One contributing factor stems from the coronavirus pandemic that has forced many countries to implement lockdowns. “As a result of the economic crisis created by the pandemic, almost 1.6 billion informal economy workers (representing the most vulnerable in the labor market), out of a worldwide total of 2 billion and a global workforce of 3.3 billion, have suffered massive damage to their capacity to earn a living,” the ILO said.
The group cited three major consequences caused by COVID-19 that threaten workers’ livelihoods: a decrease in working hours, a decline in income, and the disruption of enterprises.
According to the organization, over the second quarter of the global economy, 10.5 percent of workers–equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs–are expected to experience a decrease in working hours. The ILO previously estimated that the global workforce would experience a 6.7 percent decrease in working hours, but that has since increased mainly “due to the prolongation and extension of lockdown measures.”
The ILO said that estimates indicate a 12.4 percent decline in working hours for workers in the Americas during the second quarter–while in Central Asia and Europe, the dip is estimated at 11.8 percent.
It is estimated that the first month of the crisis resulted in a 60 percent decrease in the income of informal workers in the global workforce, the ILO also said. On a regional scale, this number translates to an 81 percent decrease in the Americas and Africa; a 21.6 percent drop in Asia and the Pacific; and a 70 percent decrease in Europe and Central Asia.
Not only have the coronavirus lockdown measures caused a number of workers to lose their jobs, but numerous businesses have closed down as well; the ILO suggested that over 436 million enterprises throughout the world “face high risks of serious disruption.” They include 232 million enterprises in the wholesale and retail market; 111 million in manufacturing; 51 million in accommodation and food service; and 42 million in real estate and other similar business activities.
During a recent press briefing, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder suggested that he foresees a “massive” poverty impact.
“As the pandemic and the job crisis evolve, the need to protect most vulnerable becomes even more urgent,” he said. “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 novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, originated in Wuhan, China. It continues to spread across the globe, infecting over 3.2 million people and causing more than 228,000 deaths as of Thursday morning, according to a tracker provided by Johns Hopkins University.