February 26, 2021

The ILO warns of great economic losses due to thermal stress at work

The ILO warns of great economic losses due to thermal stress at work

Climate change will cost the world economy losses worth 2.4 trillion dollars until 2030 as a result of the loss of productivity that the heat will cause to workers, warns a report of the International Labor Organization (ILO) that asks palliative measures.

The study, presented today at a press conference by its authors, ILO experts Catherine Saget and Nicolas Maitre, calculates the effects of heat and heat stress caused to workers, and concludes that there will be a loss of 2.2% of global work hours, equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs.

"The loss will be equivalent to 1.4 percent of world GDP (of 2030), or to the current gross domestic product (GDP) of the United Kingdom," Saget said, adding that sectors such as agriculture and construction, where usually work abroad, will be the most affected.

"This is a very conservative estimate, which takes into account a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees until the end of the century, so it is the 'best possible' scenario," Maitre told Efe.

Thermal stress occurs when the human body reaches the limit of heat it can withstand without suffering physiological degradation and, in general, occurs at room temperature above 35 degrees in high humidity conditions.

"It's basically when it's too hot to work, or at least to do it with high intensity," simplified Saget to explain that this stress reduces work capacity and also poses a risk to the employee's health because in extreme cases it can cause sunstroke that can become mortal

The study predicts that the regions most affected by this problem are those in which workers are currently more vulnerable, such as West Africa and South Asia, so the phenomenon can contribute to greater economic and development inequality in the region. planet.

Eight of the 10 countries that are expected to be most affected in relative terms by occupational heat stress are from the group of less developed nations: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chad, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo and Niger.

In the agricultural sector, the most affected will be women, who constitute the majority of workers in subsistence crops in poor areas, while in construction, men will be the hardest hit, the report warns.

"We can expect an increase in the disparity between countries with lower and higher income levels, a worsening of the working conditions of the most vulnerable people, and population displacement," explained Saget.

To address the challenge, the ILO recommends the implementation of policies at the national level that include adequate infrastructure against heat, early warning systems to deal with thermal phenomena, and a better application of international safety and health standards. labor.

"We have not calculated how much that investment would cost, but when losses of about 2.3 billion are foreseen, it is seen as a good option to mitigate them," said Maitre.

In any case, employers and employees must also take responsibility for this problem and its solutions, and include this point of view in the social dialogue, the ILO recommended in the conclusions of its report.

In this one, adaptations of work schedules, changes in the use of clothing and equipment, establishment of places located in shady areas and the designation of certain breaks in the workday must be negotiated, said the Geneva-based agency.

The study is presented in the midst of one of the greatest heat waves in Western and Southern Europe in recent years, which has forced the countries of the region to take preventive measures to try to prevent the health of its citizens. severely affected by high temperatures.

(tagsToTranslate) ILO (t) warns (t) large (t) economic losses (t)

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