COVID-19 job losses 4 times as bad as 2009 financial crisis

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After a year of unprecedented hardship and loss, the country is still on the long road to recovery. 

Four times as many jobs were lost last year amidst the pandemic in comparison to the global financial crisis in 2009, a U.N. report said Monday. 

The International Labor Organization estimated that the restrictions on businesses and public life destroyed 8.8% of all work hours around the world last year, which equates to 255 million full-time jobs. 

“This has been the most severe crisis for the world of work since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Its impact is far greater than that of the global financial crisis of 2009,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said. The fallout was almost equally split between reduced work hours and “unprecedented” job losses, he added. 

Throughout the pandemic, most people who lost work stopped looking for a job altogether, likely because of lockdown restrictions on businesses like restaurants, stores, hotels and other services that depend on in-person interactions for success. 

The plummet in work equates to a loss of $3.7 trillion in global income, what Ryder called an “extraordinary figure.” 

Women and young people took the biggest hits, the Associated Press reports. 

“Globally, employment losses for women stand at 5 per cent, versus 3.9 per cent for men. In particular, women were much more likely than men to drop out of the labour market and become inactive”, the ILO stated.

While the report expects a bounce back in jobs during the second half of the year as economies reopen and begin to recover, that all depends on coronavirus case numbers and vaccine rollout. 

The ILO gave three possible scenarios: a baseline estimate showing a 3 percent decline; a pessimistic forecast indicating a 4.6 percent loss, and in the most optimistic scenario, a 1.3 percent decrease in working hours through this year, UN News reports.

“The signs of recovery we see are encouraging, but they are fragile and highly uncertain, and we must remember that no country or group can recover alone”, Ryder said.

“We are at a fork in the road. One path leads to an uneven, unsustainable, recovery with growing inequality and instability, and the prospect of more crises. The other focuses on a human-centred recovery for building back better, prioritizing employment, income and social protection, workers’ rights and social dialogue”, he added.

“If we want a lasting, sustainable and inclusive recovery, this is the path policy-makers must commit to.”

The quicker the vaccine is made widely available to the public, the quicker businesses can reopen and the quicker life as we knew it can go back to normal.