1.5 million Caribbean jobs lost because of COVID-19—ILO

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is forecasting that 9.9 per cent of working hours in the Caribbean are expected to be lost during the second quarter of 2020, because of the impact of COVID-19.

According to the latest data released in the ILO Monitor, that loss is the equivalent of 1.5 million full-time jobs.

In a news release, the ILO notes that this employment outlook for the Caribbean region is in line with the global pattern and is a major drop in the second quarter of 2020 from the last quarter of the previous year.

By comparison, during the first quarter the hour loss was estimated at 1.7 per cent, or 250,000 in full-time equivalent jobs.

Reference AreaPeriodPercentage hour lost (%)Equivalent loss in full-time jobs
(48-hour work week)
Caribbean2020Q11.7%250,000
Caribbean2020Q29.9%1,500,000
SOURCE: ILO Monitor; ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean

The ILO explains that because of data limitations, these latest estimates include only: The Bahamas; Barbados; Cuba; Dominican Republic; Haiti; Jamaica; Puerto Rico; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago; and the United States Virgin Islands.

The ILO’s analysts point out that this new ILO research focuses on the decline in hours worked and is estimated via a “Nowcasting” Model. The data are not based on more common—but less precise, in the current context—labour market indicators such as the unemployment rate. While the full-time equivalent employment losses are presented to illustrate the severity of the estimates of hours lost, the figures should not be interpreted as numbers of jobs actually lost nor increases in unemployment.

Director of the ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean, Claudia Coenjaerts, notes the “Nowcasting” Model paints a clearer picture of what is happening right now.

“Such figures show that the impact on workers is vast and calls for attention both to those who lost their jobs and income, and those who are asked by employers to reduce working hours and thus earn less,” Director Coenjaerts observes. “Governments need to make sure social protection measures reach these categories of workers.”

She adds: “This is also an opportunity to use ‘down time’ for building skills for employability. A small investment, which may beget ultimate gains for the workers, employers and economies.” Additional details on the ILO research methodology are available in the Technical Annex 1 of the ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the World of Work, Third Edition