The Covid-19 crisis continues to have a strong impact on employment around the world, the UN said, warning that it could take years for employment levels to reach pre-pandemic levels.
In a new study, the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) revises its previous forecast that the global labor market will recover almost completely this year.
Blaming the impact of the Delta and Omicron variants and uncertainty on how the pandemic will develop, the ILO now predicts a significant shortage of working hours in 2022 compared to the pre-virus period.
ILO chief Guy Ryder told reporters that the outlook “remains volatile.”
“Global labor markets are recovering from the crisis much slower than we expected before. We are already witnessing potentially lasting damage to labor markets, as well as a worrying increase in poverty and inequality,” he added.
The report predicts that working hours worldwide will be 2% less than in 2019, which means that the world will be missing about 52 million jobs.
In May last year, the ILO predicted that the shortage of working hours would be only half as small. At the same time, the official global unemployment rate remains significantly higher than before the pandemic.
This year, 5.9% of the world’s working population, or about 207 million people, are expected to be officially registered as unemployed, which is better than in 2021 and especially in 2020, but still more of the 186 million in 2019
The ILO report says that “at least until 2023” the global unemployment rate is expected to remain above the 5.4% level seen before the crisis. And they warn that the overall impact on employment is significantly greater than previously projected, as many people have gone beyond the workforce at all.
According to forecasts, in 2022 the global labor force participation rate will remain 1.2 percentage points below the level of three years ago.
The ILO estimates that this corresponds to a shortage of around 40 million workers worldwide.
Ryder warned that the pandemic has already “weakened the economic, financial and social structure in almost every country, regardless of its development status.”
At the same time, the ILO pointed out that differences in access to vaccines and economic recovery measures mean that the crisis affects groups of workers and countries in many different ways.
It is perhaps not surprising that the report states that labor markets in higher-income countries appear to be recovering faster, although some are already beginning to face labor shortage problems, said Ryder.
Numerous factors appear to be the reason for the so-called “Great Resignation” seen in some countries, Ryder said, adding that the crisis had apparently “caused a significant number of people in the workforce to reconsider the employment they have.”
Meanwhile, changes in working methods appear to exacerbate various forms of inequality, including exacerbating gender inequality, the report said.
From the outset, it was clear that the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on women, who took the lion’s share of the extra care work and also worked more frequently in severely affected sectors, such as services and travel.
Ryder warns that the impact could continue after the end of the pandemic. “There are fears that the long-term effect of covid on the basis of gender in the workplace will be negative,” he said.
The report states that changes such as the shift to greater dependence on informal self-employment, the increase in telework and changing trends in temporary work “risk deteriorating the quality of working conditions.”
Ryder insists that only a “large-scale recovery in the labor market” will allow the world to truly recover from the pandemic. “To be sustainable, this recovery must be based on the principles of decent work, including health and safety, justice, social protection and social dialogue,” he said.
Without coherent and effective international and domestic policies in many countries, repairing the damage is likely to take years, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder warned.