Coronavirus: Half world's workers may see livelihood destroyed

Closed shops in ParisImage source, AFP
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One and a half billion workers at risk of seeing their livelihoods destroyed

Half of the world's workers are in danger of having their livelihoods destroyed by the coronavirus pandemic, a United Nations agency has warned.

The International Labour Organisation's updated analysis emphasises its severe impact on people in informal work.

It says many have already suffered massive damage to their capacity to earn a living.

Without alternative income, these workers and their families would have no means to survive, it says.

The new analysis says 1.6 billion people's livelihoods are threatened by the virus, equivalent to almost half the global workforce.

Total hours worked are expected to be 10.5% lower than before the crisis began. That is equivalent to 305 million full time jobs.

More than 60% of the global workforce is in countries where there are recommended or required closures. That is actually down from the ILO's previous figure because of the resumption of some of the activity that was curtailed in China.

But it still means the ability of many workers to support themselves is severely curtailed.

The report's emphasis on informal workers reflects the fact that they are especially vulnerable. There is a high level of poverty in the group, they have little legal protection and the work is often insecure.

The ILO says that in the first month of the crisis their income is estimated to have dropped by 60%.

In some regions the impact estimated is much larger: 81% in Africa and the Americas and 70% in Europe and Central Asia. It has been less severe in the Asia and the Pacific region though still substantial at more than 20%.

'Barely breathing'

The report also says more than 400 million enterprises are at high risk of serious disruption.

They are present in large numbers in industries that have been especially exposed to the impact of the health crisis: the retail and wholesale trades, manufacturing, accommodation and food services.

The ILO calls for urgent measures to support workers and enterprises, especially smaller ones. It calls for stronger employment policies and better-resourced systems of social protection. It also says international coordination of economic stimulus measures and debt relief will be critical for a sustainable recovery.

The ILO's Director General Guy Ryder said: "For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. Millions of businesses around the world are barely breathing. They have no savings or access to credit. These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don't help them now, they will simply perish"