An estimated 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy or nearly half of the world’s work force, risks losing their livelihood as drastic decline in working hours globally continues due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Labor Organization warned in a statement on Wednesday.
Likewise, the ILO reported that the drop in the working house in the 2nd quarter of 2020 is worse than previous estimates of 6.7 percent drop. Now, ILO said a 10.5 percent deterioration is expected, which is equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs (based on a 48-hour workweek), due to extension of lockdown measures.
The organization disclosed that around 68 percent of the world’s total workforce, including 81 percent of employers and 66 percent of own-account workers, are currently living in countries with recommended or required workplace closures.
ILO is calling for “urgent, targeted and flexible measures to support workers and businesses, particularly smaller enterprises, those in the informal economy and others who are vulnerable.”
“As the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.
“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 said that based on their data, almost 1.6 billion informal economy workers (representing the most vulnerable in the labor market), out of a worldwide total of two billion and a global workforce of 3.3 billion, have suffered massive damage to their capacity to earn a living.
In the first month of the crisis alone, ILO estimates that lockdown measures resulted in a drop of 60 percent in the income of informal workers globally: 81 percent in Africa and the Americas, 21.6 percent in Asia and the Pacific, and 70 percent in Europe and Central Asia.
Enterprises at risk
Likewise, ILO warned that worldwide more than 436 million enterprises face high risks of serious disruption.
“These enterprises are operating in the hardest-hit economic sectors, including some 232 million in wholesale and retail, 111 million in manufacturing, 51 million in accommodation and food services, and 42 million in real estate and other business activities,” ILO said.
ILO stressed that workplace closures have an immediate and severe impact on enterprises’ and own-account workers’ current operations and leave them at high risk of insolvency.
Once containment measures are lifted, ILO said surviving enterprises and own-account workers will continue to face challenges given that recovery is expected to be uncertain and slow.
For those that are engaged in global supply chains, disruptions are likely along the forward and backward linkages of the chain as other countries continue to face reductions in economic activity.
“Restarting businesses will require significant adjustments with cost implications, including securing safe work environments. Unless tackled by effective policies, these new requirements are likely to put a severe constraint on businesses,” ILO said.
Meanwhile, an employment and labor expert in Cornell University said that businesses affected by the pandemic will weather the economic storm more successfully if they collaborate with their workforces.
“As we try and get the economy out of this crunch, that’s going to be even more important that businesses sit down with labor, sit down with their workforces and really work together to come up with a way to get out of this (situation),” said Alexander Colvin, Ph.D.
He noted that there is opportunity for change during the crisis brought about by the pandemic.
Citing the history of labor relations in America, Colvin recalled that the Great Depression in the 1039s had put enormous strain on the country’s economy, resulting to “catastrophic levels of unemployment”, leading people to wonder if the American democratic and capitalist system would survive.
“And so that created pressure for change and enormous change happened—the New Deal that set the foundation for the American economy for the rest of the century,” he said.
Moving forward, Colvin said technology such as video conferencing may boost productivity, and significant government intervention will be crucial to saving the economy.