The United Nations said Monday that the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the world of work was four times worse than the 2008 economic crisis. The UN’s International Labour Organization said the pandemic had had a “devastating” and even “cataclysmic” effect, as it sought to tackle an uneven recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
The ILO on Monday kicked off its annual International Labour Conference (ILC), being held virtually for the first time, and this year focused on fostering a “human-centred” recovery from the pandemic. “The working experience of this pandemic for some has been of inconvenience, tedium, stress, and frustration. For others it has been about fear, poverty, and survival,” ILO director-general Guy Ryder said as he opened the conference plenary.
The crisis has pushed more than 100 million more workers into poverty, the ILO said in its annual World Employment and Social Outlook report ahead of the conference. It said working hours plummeted and access to good-quality jobs had evaporated.
‘Double-dose’ of inequality
The report showed that global unemployment could affect 205 million people in 2022 — far higher than the 187 million in 2019. Employment was not expected to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels until 2023 at the earliest, it said.
“Taken as a whole, this represents a world of work crisis four times as severe as the one triggered by the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009,” said Ryder. The ILO chief said the world of work was just as ill-prepared for a pandemic as health systems were, and added that the recovery would be uneven if it continued on its current trajectory.
“Gross inequities in vaccine distribution, and vastly different fiscal firepower will inject a double-dose of more inequality into the world of work, with a booster from uneven digital connectivity,” Ryder said. “That is, unless deliberate action is taken to prevent ‘Long Covid’ taking hold in the world of work — making it more unequal, more unjust, less resilient, less inclusive and ultimately less sustainable.”
Founded in 1919, the ILO now has 187 member states. Its annual conference was not held last year due to the pandemic. This year’s conference is the 109th ILC, with the first half, focusing on pandemic recovery, running until June 19.
The second half is to look at inequalities, skills and life-long learning, and run from November 25 to December 11. The conference crafts international labour standards, through conventions that countries then ratify, or through recommendations that guide national action.
The gathering also monitors how those conventions and recommendations are being applied.