The coronavirus is expected to have cost 400 million jobs in the second quarter, UN labor agency estimates

Key Points
  • Global working hours are expected to have fallen by 14% in the second quarter of 2020, according to ILO estimates.
  • This is the equivalent of 400 million full-time jobs. 
  • It marks a "sharp increase" on the 10.7% fall in working hours it previously estimated for the quarter. 
Woman carrying a cardboard box, leaving office.
JGI/Tom Grill

The coronavirus pandemic is expected to have resulted in a 14% drop in global working hours in the second quarter of 2020, the International Labour Organization has said. 

The United Nations' labor agency said this updated fall in working hours was the equivalent of 400 million full-time job losses globally in the second quarter, based on a standard 48-hour working week. 

This marked a "sharp increase" on the 10.7% fall in working hours, or 305 million job losses, that the ILO forecasted for that period, in its previous report on the impact of Covid-19 on the labor market, published in May. 

In this fifth edition of its "Covid-19 and the world of work" monitor, the ILO said that the Americas were the most affected region, with an estimated 18.3% drop in working hours, or 70 million full-time jobs. 

The working-hour losses are calculated based on the ILO's "nowcasting" model, which is statistical forecasting drawing on real-time economic and labor market data. It uses the fourth quarter of 2019 as the basis for falls. 

In the first quarter, the ILO calculated a 5.4% fall in working hours worldwide, equating to 155 million jobs, in comparison to the fourth quarter of last year. 

The ILO said there were multiple factors causing this global decline such as, shorter working hours, temporary leave — or furlough — as well as unemployment and "inactivity." 

The second half of 2020

The ILO's report also outlined three different scenarios for a labor market recovery in the second half of the year. 

The baseline model projects a 4.9% decline in working hours, or 140 million job losses, compared to the fourth quarter of 2019. This scenario is assuming a rebound in economic activity according to existing forecasts, the lifting of workplace lockdown restrictions, in addition to a recovery in consumption and investment. 

A pessimistic scenario would see an estimated 11.9% fall in working hours, or 340 million job losses. This is based on there being a second wave of coronavirus cases, prompting the return of lockdown restrictions, therefore meaning a "significantly slow recovery." 

The optimistic model would work out to an estimated 1.2% decrease in working hours, or 34 million job cuts. This best-case scenario would be the result of workers' activities resuming quickly, "significantly boosting aggregate demand and job creation." 

Gender inequalities exacerbated 

The ILO report also highlighted the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on female workers. It pointed out that 510 million, or 40%, of all employed women globally work in the four most hard-hit sectors by the coronavirus crisis, compared to 36.6% of men.

The fact that women also dominate the domestic work, health and social care sectors, has meant that they are at greater risk of infection and transmission of the virus and of losing income. Meanwhile, the distribution of unpaid care work of children, for example, has become more unequal during the pandemic, made worse by the closure of schools and care services.  

The ILO said this impact on women risked undoing some of the progress on gender equality in recent decades and exacerbating work-related gender inequalities. 

Guy Ryder, director-general of the ILO said: "The decisions we adopt now will echo in the years to come and beyond 2030."

Despite the fact that a lot has already been done to help deal with the impact of the virus and that countries were at different stages of the pandemic, Ryder said that "we need to redouble our efforts if we want to come out of this crisis in a better shape than when it started."