About 94 per cent of the world’s workers were living in countries with some sort of workplace closure measures in place as of May 17 and this included 20 per cent in countries where all workplaces with the exception of essential workers were required to be closed in the battle to contain the spread of Covid-19.Such closures has impacted working hours and employment.

The latest International Labour Organisation (ILO) monitor with its updated estimates and analysis of Covid-19 and the world of work notes that working hour and job losses will climb in the current calendar quarter across the world, with the younger workers who largely hold informal jobs being worse affected.

Lost working hours

The ILO has estimated that 4.8 per cent of working hours were lost during the first quarter of 2020. That is equivalent to approximately 135 million full-time jobs, assuming a 48-hour working week, relative to the fourth quarter of 2019.

The estimated decline in work activity in the first quarter of 2020 is uneven across regions, as it is related to the timing of outbreaks and the introduction of physical distancing measures. While the number of hours worked in the first quarter of 2020 declined by 6.5 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, driven by an 11.6 per cent decrease in East Asia, the decrease in all other major regions was 3 per cent or less in the first quarter.

The ILO describes prospects for the second quarter as dire. It has estimated that working hours will decline in the current quarter (Q2) by around 10.7 per cent relative to the last quarter of 2019, which is equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs.

Largest losses in hours worked were expected in the Americas and Europe and Central Asia. In the Americas, the loss of working hours in the second quarter is expected to reach 13.1 per cent relative to the pre-crisis level, the ILO estimates in the fourth edition of its monitor. In Europe and Central Asia, the decline is estimated at 12.9 per cent. For Asia and the Pacific, the loss of working hours was estimated at 10 per cent.

However, the impact on full-time jobs is higher in Asia and the Pacific because it is home to a larger share of the world’s population. And, so an equivalent to 175 million full-time jobs involving 48 hours of work per person per week is estimated to be affected due to work closures. For the BRICS bloc, which includes China and India, the estimated loss of working hours is 10.8 per cent, equivalent to 140 million full-time jobs.

Emergence of a lockdown generation

A greater concern is the impact of the pandemic on the young workers – those aged 15 to 24 years. This section of the population is feared to be disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 crisis. When employed, young people are concentrated in types of work that render them vulnerable to income and job losses during the current crisis, the monitor notes.

A global survey by the ILO and partners of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth found that over one in six young people surveyed had stopped working since the onset of the Covid‑19 crisis. Working hours for young people who have remained in employment fell by 23 per cent.

The ILO has estimated that 77 per cent or 328 million were employed in informal jobs, compared to 66 per cent for older workers. Also, an estimated 178 million were employed in hard-hit sectors such as hospitality, wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing and real estate when the crisis began.

That apart, more than 267 million young people were not in employment, education or training (NEET), even before the crisis, and this number includes almost 68 million unemployed young people.

Young people are set to face multiple shocks including disruption to education and training, employment and income losses, and greater difficulties in finding a job. “Young people constitute major victims of social and economic consequences of the pandemic and there is a risk that they will be scarred throughout their working lives – leading to the emergence of a ‘lockdown generation’,” the monitor notes.