Nearly half the global workforce at risk of losing income

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The ILO estimated that people in informal work have experienced a 60% drop in income in the first month of the coronavirus crisis.

Rattanakun Thongbun / EyeEm/Getty Images

Some 1.6 billion people in informal work, which is nearly half the global workforce, have become at risk of losing income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the International Labor Organisation has estimated. 

This represented nearly four-fifths (76%) of the total 2 billion people in informal work and close to half of the entire workforce, of 3.3 billion people, worldwide. 

The informal economy refers to jobs which typically have little protection, such as for income in case of sickness or lockdown.

The United Nations’ labor agency estimated that people in informal work have experienced a 60% drop in income in the first month of the coronavirus crisis. Those in informal work in Africa and the Americas experienced the biggest drop, of 81%, according to the estimates. 

It said people in this group were most at risk of losing income because these workers were more likely to be working in high-risk sectors, such as retail and food, that would be affected by the coronavirus. The ILO also said there were more informal workers in developing countries. 

It calculated that close to 1.1 billion informal economy workers lived in countries that were in full lockdown, as of April 22, while another 304 million were in countries in partial lockdown. 

Lockdown measures have been implemented by governments around the world in an effort to contain the spread of Covid-19, which latest figures show has now infected more than 3 million people globally and killed over 218,000. 

The ILO said the drop in global working hours in the second quarter of 2020 was now expected to be “significantly worse” than its estimates at the beginning of April, due to an extension of lockdown measures keeping businesses closed.  

It now forecasts a 10.5% drop in working hours globally in the second three months of 2020, which is equivalent of 305 million full-time jobs, based on a standard 48-hour working week. The ILO previously estimated a 6.7% fall in working hours, which is the equivalent of 195 million jobs. 

Guy Ryder, ILO director-general, said that as the pandemic and jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes more urgent. 

“Millions of businesses around the world are barely breathing,” he said. “These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don’t help them now, they will simply perish.”

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