The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) fallout has turned alarming across the world. According to the United Nations (UN), the coronavirus spread-out will significantly increase global unemployment and underemployment. This may leave up to 25 million more people out of jobs across the world. And this will dramatically slash global workers' incomes.
In a fresh study, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has warned that economic and labour crises sparked by the spread of the new coronavirus will have far-reaching impacts on labour market outcomes. The virus has killed more than 165,000 people worldwide and the numbers are increasing as days pass by. ILO chief Guy Ryder said in a statement, "This is no longer only a global health crisis; it is also a major labour market and economic crisis that is having a huge impact on people".
The UN agency's study suggested that in the wake of the virus, the world should prepare to see a significant rise in unemployment and underemployment. The world body presented different scenarios depending on how quickly and with what level of coordination governments react across the world. In the study, the world body found that even in the best-case scenario, 5.3 million more people will be pushed into unemployment by the crisis. The study said that some 24.7 million more people will become jobless, on top of the 188 million registered as unemployed in 2019. By comparison, the ILO pointed out, the 2008-2009 global financial crises increased global unemployment by 22 million. Economic consequences of the virus outbreak translate into reduction in working hours and wages. So it warned that underemployment is also expected to increase on a large scale.
Self-employment in developing countries like Bangladesh, often serves to cushion the impact of economic shifts. But it might not do so this time due to severe restrictions being placed on the movement of people and goods. Reduction in access to work will also mean large income losses for workers. The ILO study estimates these at between US$860 billion and US$3.4 trillion by the end of 2020. This will translate into falls in consumption of goods and services, in turn affecting the prospects for businesses and economies.
The number of people who live in poverty despite holding one or more jobs will also increase significantly. It is estimated that between 8.8 and 35 million more people will be added to the ranks of the working poor.
The strain on incomes resulting from the decline in economic activities will devastate workers close to or below the poverty line. Therefore, it needs urgent large-scale and coordinated measures to protect workers in the workplace. These include stimulating the economy and employment and support jobs and income through social protections, paid leave and other subsidies.
It is apprehended that some groups will be disproportionately impacted by the jobs crisis. This will include youth, older workers, women and migrants. In a way that could increase already soaring inequality of income. The world in 2008, presented a united front to address the consequences of the global financial crisis. This caused the worst averted. That kind of leadership with resolve is now needed to overcome the present crisis.
Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled is a retired Professor of Economics and Vice Principal at Cumilla Women's Government College, Cumilla.