New figures from the U.N.’s International Labor Organization indicate the global labor market has been slow to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic, with the economies of lower-income countries faring worse than those of the wealthier countries.
Early this year, ILO economists had anticipated a fragile, but steady recovery in the global job market. However, they acknowledge this relative optimism now has faded due to new waves of the pandemic and slower than expected economic recovery.
Based on its findings, the U.N. agency now projects the number of global hours worked this year will be 4.3% below pre-pandemic levels. This is the equivalent to a loss of 125 million full time jobs.
ILO Director-General Guy Ryder says more worrying still is what he sees as the two-speed recovery between higher and lower-income countries.
“This is reflected in the fact that the higher income countries, with more resources managed to recover in 2021 at least to some extent, whilst lower income countries continue to suffer very severely from the pandemic…The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities between countries, as well as within them,” he expressed.
Ryder blames this growing divergence on differences in the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations and fiscal stimulus packages. He says the pace of each nation’s recovery depends heavily on its ability to vaccinate its population and it will also depend on the ability of countries to provide a financial cushion to protect workers and businesses from the economic impact of the pandemic.
“In low and middle-income countries, fiscal constraints and slow vaccination progress are expected to continue to hinder progress. And without concrete financial and technical support, the great divergence between developed and developing countries will persist,” he insists.
The ILO reports the prospects for labor market recovery for the rest of the year remain weak and uncertain. Ryder says no country or region will get out of this crisis alone. He says the only sustainable path out of this health and socio-economic dilemma is for all nations to work together.