ILO: No return to pre-pandemic job levels until ‘at least’ 2023

Guy Ryder, ILO director-general, at the launch of the ILO World Employment and Social Outlook (WESO) report, Geneva, 17 January 2022. (Photo: Marcel Crozet/ILO)

The outlook for a recovery in the global labour market this year remains “slow and uncertain” and unemployment is likely to remain above pre-pandemic levels until at least 2023, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Monday. 

In its latest report, the UN’s labour market agency downgraded its forecast for recovery in 2022, projecting that the number of working hours lost will be the equivalent of 52 million full-time jobs, compared with the fourth quarter of 2019.

Its last estimate issued in May 2021 forecast a deficit of 26 million full-time equivalent jobs. Although an improvement from last year, this remains two per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels.

The impact of the latest Covid-19 variants on the world of work, including the rapid spread of Omicron across the world, are largely to blame.

“Two years into this crisis, the outlook remains fragile and the path to recovery is slow and uncertain,” ILO director-general, Guy Ryder, said.

“We are already seeing potentially lasting damage to labour markets, along with concerning increases in poverty and inequality. Many workers are being required to shift to new types of work – for example in response to the prolonged slump in international travel and tourism.”

The ILO Employment and Social Outlook report shows stark differences in the impact the crisis is having across groups of workers and countries, deepening inequalities within and among countries.

Europe and North America are showing the most encouraging signs of recovery, while South-east Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean have the most negative outlook.

Lower-middle-income economies are faring the worst, while high-income countries are showing the strongest labour market recovery.

Women have been disproportionately affected by the crisis, with this expected to have a lasting impact in the coming years.

The closing of education and training institutions will also have “cascading long-term implications” for young people, particularly those without internet access.

“There can be no real recovery from this pandemic without a broad-based labour market recovery,” Ryder added.

“To be sustainable, this recovery must be based on the principles of decent work – including health and safety, equity, social protection and social dialogue.”