Global employment will not recover to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2023, with a projected shortfall in hours worked this year equivalent to 52 million full-time jobs, according to a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
While an improvement compared with 2021, hours worked globally are expected to remain 2 percent below levels seen before the arrival of COVID-19, according to the ILO’s outlook for 2022 released on Monday.
Global unemployment is also projected to stay well above pre-pandemic levels, with 207 million people expected to be out of work in 2022, compared with 186 million in 2019, according to the report.
The global unemployment rate is projected to reach 5.9 percent in 2022, improved from 6.2 percent last year and 6.6 percent in 2020, but still above 5.4 percent in 2019.
The United Nations agency said it had downgraded its forecast for the year due to the emergence of the Delta and Omicron coronavirus variants and continuing uncertainty about the trajectory of the pandemic.
In May, the ILO had predicted there would be 205 million people out of work and a deficit in hours worked equivalent to 26 million full-time jobs.
ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said the global labour market faced a “slow and uncertain” path to recovery.
“We are already seeing potentially lasting damage to labour markets, along with concerning increases in poverty and inequality,” Ryder said in a press release that accompanied the report.
“Many workers are being required to shift to new types of work – for example in response to the prolonged slump in international travel and tourism.”
“There can be no real recovery from this pandemic without a broad-based labour market recovery,” Ryder added. “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 report warned that emerging economies have not recovered at the same pace as their developed peers, with underlying inequalities “amplifying and prolonging the adverse impact of the crisis.”
North America and Europe displayed the strongest signs of recovery, while labour markets in Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean fared the worst, according to the report.
“The damaging impact of the pandemic on jobs and livelihoods, if not quickly reversed, will run the risk of inducing long-term structural change with enduring adverse implications for labour markets,” the report said. “Uneven impacts of containment measures and the decent work deficits that they have contributed to are threatening the prospects for sustainable and inclusive economic growth.”
The UN body also sounded the alarm about the disproportionate decline in women’s employment and school closures that have had “cascading long-term implications for the employment and further education and training of young people, especially those who have had limited or no access to online learning opportunities”.
The report recommended rebuilding the economy in ways that “address systemic and structural inequalities” alongside other challenges such as climate change.
“Throughout the recovery period, macroeconomic policies will need to go beyond a countercyclical role, merely seeking a return to pre-crisis outcomes, since this would not address decent work deficits or leave countries any less vulnerable to future crises,” the report said.
“Fiscal policies must not only aim to protect jobs, incomes and employment, but also address structural challenges and root causes of decent work deficits across the world.”