G20 and COP26 have a significant role to play in ensuring fast and equitable labour market recovery

Eighth edition of ILO monitor has projected that global hours worked in 2021 will be 4.3 per cent below pre-pandemic levels in 2019 fourth quarter. It is equivalent to 125 million full-time jobs loss

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Dr Gyan Pathak

The global labour market recovery has been stalled and significant disparities between advanced and developing economies persist along with great disparities between various groups of workforce within nations that need urgent redressal to avoid catastrophic impact on the workforce including complete loss of livelihoods, pushing them into extreme poverty and hunger.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has not only noted these facts but also has released a report containing these facts just ahead of G20 Leaders’ Summit and COP26. The report titled “COVID-19 and the world of work” has warned that without concrete financial and technical support these alarming situations would persist.

Not only that, it has also urged COP26 to take urgent measures to address climate change that should prioritize decent work and a just transition to greener economies. Obviously, G20 and COP26 have a significant role to play in fast and equitable labour market recovery.

The eighth edition of the ILO monitor has projected that global hours worked in 2021 will be 4.3 per cent below the pre-pandemic levels in the fourth quarter of 2019. It is equivalent to 125 million full-time jobs loss.

Only a few months ago in June, even the ILO did not expect such a great loss in 2021, when it had projected the global hours worked to be only 3.5 per cent equivalent to only 100 million full-time jobs loss.

Therefore, the ILO has said, the loss of working hours in 2021 because of the pandemic will significantly higher than previously estimated, as a two-speed recovery between developed and developing nations threatens the global economy as a whole.

The ILO monitor has further found that the total hours worked in high-income countries in the third quarter of 2021 were 3.6 per cent lower than the fourth quarter of 2019. By contrast, the gap in low-income countries stood at 5.7 per cent and in lower-middle income countries at 7.3 per cent.

From a regional perspective, Europe and Central Asia experienced the smallest loss of hours worked which was about 2.5 per cent, compared to pre-pandemic levels. This was followed by Asia and the Pacific at 4.6 per cent. Africa, the Americas, and Arab States showed declines of 5.6, 5.4, and 6.5 per cent respectively.

Several reasons for these alarming conditions have been pointed out by ILO which included disparities in roll-out of vaccination and fiscal stimulus packages announced and implemented by various countries and international organizations. The “great divergence” would persist if action is not taken in right unrest, it says.

Estimates indicate that for each 14 persons fully vaccinated in the second quarter of 2021, one full-time equivalent job was added to the global labour market which substantially boosted the labour market recovery.

However, the highly uneven roll-out of vaccinations has inflicted great disparities and created great imbalances that could only be rapidly and effectively addressed through greater global solidarity.

The ILO estimates that low-income countries can catch up with the richer economies in just over three months if they are allowed equitable access to vaccines.

Fiscal stimulus packages continued to be the other key factor in the trajectory of recovery, the report says. However, the fiscal stimulus gap remains largely unaddressed. Around 86 per cent of global stimulus measures were concentrated in the high-income countries. Estimates show that on an average, an increase in fiscal stimulus of 1 per cent of annual GDP increased annual working hours by 0.3 percentage points relative to the last quarter of 2019.

The pandemic has also impacted productivity, workers, and enterprises in ways that have led to greater disparities. The productivity gap between advanced and developing countries is projected to reach the highest recorded level since 2005, which is likely to widen from 17.5:1 to 18:1 in real terms.

“The current trajectory of labour markets is of a stalled recovery, with major downside risks appearing,” said the ILO Director-General Guy Ryader. At the ILO, he said, they have already started to act. Last June, the International Labour Conference had adopted a Global Call to Action for a human-centred recovery by committing to ensuring it fully inclusive, sustainable, and resilient, a roadmap that is fully aligned with and supports the UN’s Common Agenda and its Global Accelerator for Jobs and Social Protection.

While urging COP26, which opens on October 31, to prioritise the world of work aspects of the Paris Agreement, ILO says that governments need to integrate into their long-term plans the concrete measures to promote decent work and protect livelihoods. Alongside these measures, comprehensive and coherent policies are needed, involving all actors in the world of work, to enable successful structural change and deep economic and social transformations.

ILO has also issued guideline for Green Jobs programme and stressed the need for a full range of social and labour market policies to be deployed which includes concrete action in the areas of sustainable growth, industrial and sectoral policies, employment and social protection policy, public investment, enterprises, labour migration governance, skills, occupational safety and health, social protection, labour market policies, rights, social dialogue and tripartism.

Needs and priorities of indigenous and tribal peoples, persons with disabilities, displaced people with disabilities, migrant workers, workers in the informal economy and the rural sector and youth should also be taken into account.

All these need adequate national and international financing which the developed countries must ensure.

(IPA Service)

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