ILO Report: COVID-19 eliminates roughly 14 million jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean

Vinícius Pinheiro, ILO Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. (Image: ILO)

A new report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that at least 14 million jobs have been lost in Latin America and the Caribbean, as a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis in the region.

The report, titled “ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work”, notes that the pandemic especially affects sectors that generate a large number of jobs in the region, such as commerce and the service industry. It was released this Tuesday in Geneva.

Describing the impact of COVID-19 as “catastrophic”, the data shared in the report posits that the pandemic is causing a loss of 5.7 per cent in working hours in the second quarter of this year, equivalent to 14 million full-time workers, and that loss of working hours is reflected in a drop in employment.

“We are facing a massive destruction of jobs, and this poses a challenge of unprecedented magnitude in the labour markets of Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Vinícius Pinheiro, ILO Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “We already know that at the same time that the health emergency is overcome, we will have to face a true reconstruction of our labour markets.”

Worldwide, the loss of hours of work was 6.7 per cent, equivalent to 195 million full-time workers in the second quarter of 2020. The ILO Monitor describes the pandemic as the worst crisis since World War II, which is causing a rise in unemployment and job insecurity.

The report also estimates huge losses across different income groups, noting that the sectors most at risk include hospitality and restaurant services, manufacturing, retail, and business and administrative activities.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 50 per cent of all workers are employed in the sectors most impacted by the crisis, such as commerce and services, according to data from the latest ILO Labour Overview for the region, which was released in January just before the global contagion of COVID-19 began.

Pinheiro emphasized that there is particular concern about the employment of women, who could be more affected because they are over-represented in the health, tourism and services sectors.

He also explained that the impacts of the crisis on tourism will be felt heavily in the Caribbean region, which is highly dependent on the jobs and income generated by this sector.

The new ILO report highlights that these sectors employ many people in low-paid, low-skilled jobs, where an unforeseen loss of income has devastating consequences.

It says that countries with high levels of informality face additional challenges, both health and economic, including the lack of social security coverage. According to ILO estimates in Latin America and the Caribbean, the informality rate is 53 per cent, which affects more than 140 million men and women at work.

“The countries of the region are going to need ambitious measures to preserve jobs, promote businesses and protect incomes to get out of this intensive care situation,” emphasized the ILO Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The ILO report also highlights the need to use social dialogue to deal with this crisis.

“In order to achieve better results, and give political sustainability to the measures, it is necessary to have strategies that have support and are the product of consensus,” Pinheiro said. “It is crucial to find ways to create social dialogue in which government representatives participate, as well like those of employers’ and workers’ organizations.”

Beginning 14 April 2020, the ILO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean will host a series of virtual dialogue tables to address specific aspects of the crisis triggered by COVID-19 and collaborate to find concerted solutions that are adapted to the realities of each country.

ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work. (Image: ILO)