By Kiran Pandey

The world lost nearly 400 million full-time jobs in the year’s second quarter (April-June 2020) due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, said the International Labour Organization (ILO) recently.

The ILO also pointed out that job losses in Africa were much more than its earlier estimates, while many more working hours were lost in Asia than earlier predictions.

Almost 59 per cent full-time jobs have been wiped out in the Asia-Pacific region, while South Asia accounted for 110 million of the total 235 million full-time jobs lost this quarter. Job losses increased by over 400 per cent in South Asia and Africa each since the first quarter, said the estimates.

These losses increased by nearly 158 per cent in the second three months, according to the estimates.

Around 245 million additional full-time jobs were lost in three months of the pandemic.

Within these months, the South Asian region — comprising of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — lost 89 million jobs, according to the estimates.

The ILO drew these estimates taking into account a 48-hour work week. If a week with 40 working hours is considered instead, there would be 480 million full-time jobs lost in the second quarter. South Asia would then account for 28 per cent jobs lost.

South Asia loses 17% working hours

The number of working hours have consistently declined since March 2020, which meant a loss of full-time jobs, the ILO pointed out.

The United Nations organisation has consistently raised alarms over the sharp decline in working hours across the world as a result of labour market disruptions from ensuing lockdown measures to curb COVID-19.

Almost 14 per cent of the entire world’s working hours were estimated to be wiped out in the second quarter, the estimates showed.

The dip in working hours this quarter was significantly higher than previous ILO projections. A similar estimate in May 2020 had pegged this to be around 10.7 per cent.  April’s projections increased to 11 per cent.

The greatest reduction in working hours was estimated to have occurred in Latin America (20 per cent decline), followed by South Asia with an 18 per cent decline in the second half of 2020.

Rising job losses in Africa too: ILO

The ILO also flagged the increasing loss of full-time jobs in Africa, where the total working-hour loss in the second quarter was estimated at 12.1 per cent, or 45 million full-time jobs, up from the previous estimate of 9.5 per cent.

Northern Africa was the most affected, with a 15 per cent decline in total working hours. Eastern Africa was estimated to lose around 15 million jobs during the second quarter, according to the ILO.

The Down To Earth State of India’s environment 2020: In figures report had earlier flagged the unemployment crisis that emerged as a result of the pandemic. In India, the second quarter was marked by a sharp increase in unemployment to 23.52 per cent in April from 8.74 per cent in March, the DTE report had said.

Eleven out of 16 states had an unemployment rate over 20 per cent, according to the DTE report. The situation, however, has reportedly improved, with India’s unemployment rate reported to be 10.8 per cent as of June 30, showed recent estimates by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy.

Second wave of pandemic

Any recoveries in the labour market in the second half of the year will be uncertain and incomplete, said the ILO.

While several countries ease restrictions, the World Health Organization warned about a possible second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. India is also vulnerable to such a second wave, according to Randeep Guleria, director of the All India Institute Of Medical Science, Delhi.

In such a scenario, several countries may enforce restrictions again. Nearly 12 per cent of the working hours — around 340 million full-time jobs — compared to the last quarter of 2019 would be lost, the ILO pointed out.

Real labour market outcomes in the remainder of 2020 will be shaped by policy choices and actions as well as by the future trajectory the pandemic takes, said the ILO.

Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, said the UN body had called upon governments, workers and employers to use this opportunity to discuss concrete plans for implementing a job-rich, inclusive, sustainable and equitable recovery.

“We must all step up to the challenge of building a better future of work,” he said. – Down-to-Earth