As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and global labor markets continue to struggle, the latest report from the International Labor Organization (ILO), released on Monday, warns that the recovery will remain slow.
In its lighthouse WGlobal Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2022 (WESO Trends), ILO revised down its forecast for a labor market recovery for 2022, projecting a large and persistent deficit in the number of working hours compared to the pre-pandemic era.
“Two years into this crisis, the outlook remains fragile and the road to recovery is slow and uncertain,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.
The previous annual estimate from last May predicted a deficit equivalent to 26 million full-time jobs.
Although this latest projection is an improvement on the situation in 2021, it is still almost 2% lower than the number of hours worked before the pandemic worldwide, the report points out.
Additionally, global unemployment is expected to remain above pre-COVID levels until at least 2023.
The 2022 level for unemployed people is estimated at 207 million, up from 186 million in 2019.
“Many workers are being forced to switch to new types of work – for example in response to the prolonged decline in international travel and tourism,” the ILO chief added.
“Potentially lasting damage”
WESO Trends also warns that the overall employment impact is significantly greater than that depicted in the raw numbers, as many people have left the labor force.
The global labor force participation rate in 2022 is expected to remain 1.2 percentage points lower than in 2019.
The downgrade reflects the impact of COVID variants, such as Delta and Omicron, as well as continued uncertainty surrounding the future course of the pandemic.
“We are already seeing potentially lasting damage to labor markets, as well as a worrying rise in poverty and inequality,” Ryder said.
Radically different impacts
The report warns of stark differences in the impact the crisis is having on groups of workers and countries – deepening inequalities within and between nations – while weakening the economic, financial and social fabric of nearly all states, regardless of their level of development.
It will likely take years to undo the damage, with potential long-term consequences for the workforce, household incomes, and social and possibly political cohesion.
As the effects are felt in global labor markets, the ILO observes a wide divergence in recovery patterns, which appear to be correlated with containing the coronavirus.
Regions in Europe and North America show the most encouraging signs of recovery, while Southeast Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean show the most negative outlook.
On a national level, labor market recovery is strongest in high-income countries, while lower-middle-income economies fare the worst.
And the disproportionate impact of the crisis on women’s employment is likely to persist for years to come, according to the report.
The same time, WESO Trends warns that the closure of education and training institutions “will have long-term cascading consequences” for young people, especially those without internet access.
“There can be no real recovery from this pandemic without a broad 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,” the ILO chief said.
The analysis includes comprehensive labor market projections for 2022 and 2023 and assesses how the labor market recovery has unfolded around the world – reflecting different national approaches to pandemic recovery and analyzing the effects on different groups of workers and economic sectors.
As in previous crises, he also pointed out that for some, temporary employment had created a buffer against pandemic shocks.
And while many temporary jobs were cut or not renewed, alternative jobs were created, including for workers who had lost their full-time jobs.
On average, the ILO argues that the incidence of temporary work has not changed.
The publication also offers a summary of key policy recommendations aimed at creating a fully inclusive and human-centred crisis recovery at the national and international levels.