The world lost 8.8% work hours equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs to the pandemic last year.
The disruption to the labour market is four times greater than the lost work hours or job loss during the 2009 global financial crisis, according to the International Labour Organization.
In a latest report published on Monday on how Covid-19 impacted the world of work, the ILO said that from April through June global work hours were reduced by 18.2%. The figures of the third and fourth quarters were 7.2% and 4.6%, pointing to a stronger than expected rebound in terms of work hours, especially in the lower-middle income countries, the report says.
The lost work hours are accounted for reduced work hours for those in employment or "unprecedented" levels of employment loss, affecting as many as 114 million people.
Of them, 33 million became unemployed. And 81 million became inactive, rather than unemployed, meaning that they left the labour market because they were unable to work, "perhaps because of pandemic restrictions, or simply they ceased to look for work".
Women suffered more than men due to the labour market disruptions. The employment loss was higher for women --5% -- than for men – 3.9%, and for young workers aged 15 to 24 years (8.7%), than for older workers (3.7%).
Younger workers either lost jobs, dropped out of the labour force or faced a delayed entry into it.
This "highlights the all too real risk of a lost generation," the report says.
These massive losses resulted in an 8.3% decline in global labour income (before support measures were included), equivalent to $3.7 trillion or 4.4% of the global gross domestic product.
Disproportionate impact and uneven recovery
The latest findings of the ILO also shed light on the uneven impacts of Covid-19 on different economic, geographic, and labour market sectors.
The worst affected sector has been accommodation and food services, where employment dropped by more than 20%, on an average, followed by the retail and manufacturing.
On the contrary, high-skilled services such as information and communication, and financial and insurance activities saw a job growth in the second and third quarters of 2020.
There were marginal rises in employment in mining, quarrying and utilities too.
The uneven impacts "highlight concerns of a 'K-shaped recovery', whereby those sectors and workers hit hardest could be left behind in the recovery, leading to increasing inequality, unless corrective measures are taken".
Supporting a human-centred recovery
While there is still a high degree of uncertainty, the latest projections for 2021 show that most countries will experience a relatively strong recovery in the second half of the year, as vaccination programmes take effect.
The report emphasizes policy intervention addressing issues of employment, income, workers' rights and social dialogue.
The ILO in the report recommended taking measures to support incomes and promote investment.
International support is needed for low- and middle-income countries that have fewer financial resources to roll out vaccines and promote employment and economic recovery.
"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," said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.Recovery measures should focus on women, young people, low-skilled and low-paid workers, and other hard-hit groups and sectors, according to the report. And there should be social dialogues to implement the recovery strategies.
"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. If we want a lasting, sustainable and inclusive recovery, this is the path policy-makers must commit to" he added.