Coronavirus is set to cost 195 million jobs in the second quarter, UN labor agency predicts

Key Points
  • The UN agency expected working hours to decline by 6.7% in Q2, the equivalent of 195 million full-time employees. 
  • Four out of five workers in the global workforce had now been affected by the pandemic. | Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic is expected to wipe out 6.7% of working hours globally in the second quarter of 2020, according to a forecast by the International Labor Organization. 

The United Nations' labor agency said this would be the equivalent of 195 million full-time workers, with a standard 48-hour working week. 

In March, the ILO predicted that nearly 25 million jobs would be lost by the end of 2020. 

However, it now believes that there is a "high risk that the end-of-year figure will be significantly higher" than that initial projection, as the pandemic had "further accelerated in terms of intensity and expanded its global reach" since that data was published. 

The UN agency said the eventual increase in global unemployment in 2020 depended on how quickly the economy could recover in the second half of the year and how effective policy measures were in boosting labor demand. 

Since the ILO published its preliminary assessment, it said cases of COVID-19 infection had risen six-fold.

There are now more than 1,450,000 global cases and at least 83,568 people have died from the coronavirus, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

The ILO calculated that full or partial lockdown measures, to slow the spread of the highly infectious virus, had affected just over four out of five workers globally — 2.7 billion of the world's workforce of 3.3 billion people. 

The ILO described the coronavirus as the "worst crisis since World War II." 

Guy Ryder, director-general of the ILO, said workers and businesses were facing "catastrophe" in both developed and developing economies. 

"We have to move fast, decisively, and together," he said. "The right, urgent, measures, could make the difference between survival and collapse." 

The ILO estimated that 38%, or 1.25 billion, of people globally work in the sectors that are at high risk of "drastic and devastating" increases in layoffs, pay cuts and working hours. These sectors include retail trade, accommodation and food services, as well as manufacturing. 

It also said that the 2 billion people in informal work around the world, most of which were in emerging and developing countries, were also among the most at-risk of losing income. 

The UN agency reiterated the need for large-scale, integrated policy measures to help combat the economic threat of the virus, but added that there was a need for immediate support for those working in the most affected sectors.

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