The global labor market will take longer to recover than previously thought, according to a recent report by the International Labour Organization, as the world goes through a pandemic recovery tainted by the response to the Omicron variant.
“The International Labour Organization (ILO) has downgraded its forecast for labor market recovery in 2022, projecting a deficit in hours worked globally equivalent to 52 million full-time jobs, relative to the fourth quarter of 2019,” said the news release of the “World Employment and Social Outlook—Trends 2022” report (pdf) published Monday.
Although the number of global hours worked is better than that of 2021, it still remains nearly two percent below the pre-pandemic levels, according to the U.N.-based agency.
The main reason given for the 2022 downgrade was the uncertainties around the “future course of the pandemic,” as well as the current impact of Omicron and Delta variants on working conditions around the globe.
“Global unemployment is expected to remain above pre-COVID-19 levels until at least 2023. The 2022 level is estimated at 207 million, compared to 186 million in 2019.” This year, the number of unemployed is predicted to decline by about 7 million.
Unemployment might be higher than the numbers given in the report because of people leaving the workforce en masse. The agency says that the labor force participation for this year is 1.2 percentage points lower than that of pre-pandemic 2019.
Regardless of whether a country is developed or not, the crisis is having extremely varied impacts on different groups of workers. The inequalities are widening with the “economic, financial and social fabric of almost every nation” weakened, while the effects of the damages are expected to last for some years.
Regions like Europe and North America are displaying rapid signs of recovery with a robust labor market, but regions like South-East Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean show a disappointing outlook.
“There can be no real recovery from this pandemic without a broad-based labor market recovery. And to be sustainable, this recovery must be based on the principles of decent work—including health and safety, equity, social protection, and social dialogue,” said Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General in the news release.
Ryder added that the path to recovery remains “fragile” as workers who were previously employed in certain sectors like travel and tourism are forced to change their industries.
“Employment losses and reductions in working hours have led to reduced incomes,” from the report. The pandemic has increased the financial strain on economically vulnerable households in developing economies.
Based on data from the report, an additional 30 million adults had been pushed into extreme poverty, that is, living on less than $1.90 per day, in 2020. And the number of extreme working poor—those who remain below the poverty line even though they go to work—increased by 8 million.
The cost of commodities has gone up, indicating a decline in disposable income. And many households have depleted their savings in emerging economies where there are no social safety nets.
With 187 member states, the ILO, based in Geneva, seeks to advance social and economic justice through setting international labor standards.