June 17, 2021

The pandemic increases the working poor and puts gender equality in the world at risk, according to the ILO


2022 will not yet be the year for the recovery of jobs lost by the pandemic in the world, warns the International Labor Organization (ILO) in its annual report. “At least until 2023, job growth will not be able to compensate for the losses suffered,” says the agency. This is not the only damage that the coronavirus leaves in the job market. COVID has increased inequality, in many of its areas. Between rich and poor countries, between workers in the same environment, feeding off the most precarious and making the levels of poor workers go back “five years”, and also between women and men, who are the most affected by this crisis.


COVID-19 is also a virus of inequality: it puts the health and economy of the most precarious on the ropes

COVID-19 is also a virus of inequality: it puts the health and economy of the most precarious on the ropes

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“The labor market crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over.” With this forceful phrase the ILO presents its report World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2021, which is broadcast this Wednesday around the world and where the agency detects several challenges in the labor market due to the pandemic.

The ILO estimates that next year we will continue to talk about global job losses. The agency speaks of the “job deficit” induced by the pandemic, which takes into account not only the jobs destroyed after the outbreak of the coronavirus, but also those that have not been created in this context of crisis due to the pandemic and that were expected to be generated.

In 2020, the entity calculates that there was a deficit of 144 million jobs, taking into account the reduction of 114 million workers compared to 2019 and the “30 million new jobs” that were estimated to be created by the last year around the world. The 2021 loss still stands at 75 million workers and in 2022 it still estimates a jobs deficit of 23 million. In this last year, no loss of workers compared to the pre-pandemic scenario, but with job creation still hampered by the pandemic, as can be seen in the following graph.



Not only talking about jobs, but also working hours, the ILO indicates “the recurring waves of the pandemic around the world have caused loss rates” to remain high in 2021. “Latin America and The Caribbean, and Europe and Central Asia are the two most affected regions, with estimated losses of working hours in each case exceeding 8% in the first quarter and 6% in the second quarter of 2021 (compared to world averages of -4.8% and -4.4%, respectively).

The international body estimates that in 2022 the number of unemployed people in the world will stand at 205 million, still “well above the 187 million in 2019.”

The working poor, at 2015 levels

As warned in another Oxfam Intermón study, the ILO also draws attention to the fact that COVID-19 has increased inequality in the world. For various reasons, such as a vaccination that is leaving poor countries behind against rich ones, as well as the greater vulnerability of the so-called “informal workers” In most cases, they have not had access to social protection and measures that have cushioned the crisis –such as teleworking– more accessible for skilled jobs and for households with better resources (for example, in relation to internet access).

A tangle of factors that leaves a more unequal world, between and within different countries. More unequal and with more working poor. Compared to 2019, globally, the category of working poor or extremely poor (that is, living in households with a sum of less than US $ 3.20 per person per day) has increased rather than declined . “It has grown by 108 million people,” the ILO indicates to a total of about 700 million working people in extreme or moderate poverty. Extreme poverty, in particular, has added 34 million workers.

Measures to compensate for the fall in labor income have been more frequent in higher-income countries and, in any case, these “for the most part, apply to” formal workers “, recalls the ILO, which has left people in an irregular situation or with vulnerable jobs without protection. “We have lost five years of progress towards the eradication of working poverty, since it has reached rates equivalent to those of 2015,” the agency highlights. eradicate poverty by 2030, committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Risk to gender equality

The United Nations agency for the world of work highlights the risk posed by the pandemic to another inequality: gender. “Women have been excessively affected by the labor crisis” of COVID-19, warns the ILO. In the first place, with a greater loss of employment: in 2020, the contraction of female employment was 5% compared to 3.9% of male employment. The number of women who left the labor market and became inactive is also higher, the study indicates.

But also, as some national research has already pointed out, the pandemic that meant that women returned to assume more care and unpaid work in the home. “The increase in domestic responsibilities derived from confinement due to the crisis has raised the risk of a ‘return to the conventional’ with regard to gender roles,” draws the attention of the ILO.

Women already bear a disproportionate burden of unpaid work under normal circumstances, and the coronavirus crisis has increased it. Other reasons include the closure of schools and nursery schools during the pandemic, but also due to the greater presence of workers at home due to teleworking. “In Canada, for example, single mothers of children under 6 have been found to have suffered a 28% decrease in working hours as a result of the crisis,” the ILO report mentions.

These gender inequalities during the pandemic are already worrying, but they will be even more so if they are not reversed with the recovery and that risk of going back to the past in the advances between women and men is confirmed. “The setbacks in gender equality are especially worrying in those regions where gender gaps were already very marked before the crisis,” says the agency.

To counter this path towards inequality in its different facets, the ILO is committed to a recovery structured around four principles: promoting broad-based economic growth and creating productive employment; support household income and job market transition; commit to inclusive, sustainable and resilient economic growth and development; and use social dialogue to formulate people-centered recovery strategies.

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