ILO: Pandemic caused 26-million job loss in Latin America, Caribbean

 A crowded Charlotte Street in Port of Spain in this file photo by Roger Jacob
A crowded Charlotte Street in Port of Spain in this file photo by Roger Jacob

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) said on Thursday the Latin American and Caribbean region lost 26 million jobs as a result of the covid19 pandemic.

A study released by the ILO revealed new waves of infections and slow vaccination processes have aggravated unemployment at the beginning of 2021.

Vinícius Pinheiro, ILO regional director, said: "The search for a better normality will require ambitious actions to recover from the setbacks in the world of work."

By the end of 2020, the region's average occupancy rate had dropped from 57.4 to 51.7 per cent, a sharp drop that is equivalent to the loss of around 26 million jobs.

In the region, 63 per cent of those over 15 participated in economic activity in 2019, before the pandemic, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and about half of all of them in the informal sector.

Now the ILO, in its study,Transiting the Labour Crisis through the Pandemic: Towards a People-centred Job Recovery, estimates that the participation rate fell to 58 per cent in 2020.

Roxana Maurizio, a specialist in labour economics at the ILO, warned that in 2021 "there could be a significant increase in the unemployment rate, when the millions of people who had stopped participating in the labour force return to the work."

Pinheiro said despite the adversities "measures must be taken and consensus reached so that 2021 is the year of vaccination and economic recovery, with the generation of more and better jobs.

“In the search for recovery, it will be unavoidable to address the pre-existing conditions in the region, which are key to understanding why the impact of the pandemic on employment was so strong. Many of the challenges that we had before are still in force, although now they are more urgent.”

Among those challenges, he highlighted the high informality, reduced fiscal spaces, persistent inequality, low productivity and little coverage of social protection.

Pnheiro said: "To that is added child labour and forced labour, they are part of the pending issues in the region."

In addition to the jobs lost, the region experienced a sharp contraction in hours worked – 16.2 per cent versus the world average of 8.8 per cent – as well as a reduction in labour income, which represents 80 per cent of the total obtained by people in Latin America and the Caribbean.

"The formal job deficit will probably be more evident for young workers, women and adults with lower qualifications, groups that structurally exhibit greater difficulties to insert into a formal position," said Maurizio.

The ILO proposes as pillars for recovery: atimulating the economy and employment, supporting businesses, jobs and income, protecting workers in the workplace, and engaging in social dialogue when seeking solutions.

The ILO report concludes, "The prospects for economic recovery for 2021 are modest and still very uncertain, so expectations about a possible reversal of the critical situation in the labour market should be very cautious."

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