The International Labor Organization (ILO), in a technical note released on Thursday, April 8, reported that 26 million workers lost their jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean in the past one year due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the note, by the end of 2020, the region’s average employment rate fell from 57.4% to 51.7%. This sharp drop is equivalent to the loss of around 26 million jobs. The report further pointed out that 80% of these workers or more than 20 million people had left the workforce.
Furthermore, the report highlighted that in addition to lost jobs, the region also experienced a sharp contraction in working hours as well as a reduction in labor incomes, and that it recorded the largest losses in hours worked worldwide.
The ILO noted that the prospects for recovery in labor markets are uncertain in 2021 due to the current complex employment landscape in the region, which has been aggravated by new waves of infection and slow vaccination processes.
🚨La región de América Latina y el Caribe perdió 26 millones de empleos como consecuencia de la pandemia, e inició 2021 con un panorama laboral complejo agravado por nuevas olas de contagios y lentos procesos de vacunación.
— OIT (@OITnoticias) April 8, 2021
Vinícius Pinheiro, ILO director for Latin America and the Caribbean, warned that “the quest for a better normality will require ambitious action to recover from setbacks in the world of work.” Pinheiro stressed that “now it is the time to re-generate the jobs lost due to the pandemic as well as to create new decent work opportunities.” He said that despite adversities, measures must be taken so that “2021 becomes the year of vaccination and economic recovery with more and better jobs.”
Pinheiro emphasized that “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 we had before the pandemic remain in place, although they are now more urgent.” In this regard, he added that there is a need to reduce “high informality, small fiscal spaces, persistent inequality, low productivity and poor coverage of social protection, in addition to the persistent challenges such as child labor and forced labor.”
Roxana Maurizio, ILO Regional Labour Economics Specialist, pointed out that “the macroeconomic collapse has disproportionately impacted some segments of the population, amplifying labor and social gaps -especially gender gaps- that characterize the region.” With respect to this, she said that “the formal work deficit is likely to become more apparent to certain types of workers such as young people, women and adults with lower qualifications, groups that traditionally experience greater difficulties in accessing formal employment.”
To advance the recovery of employment, the ILO proposed developing recovery strategies based on a Policy Framework with four main pillars: stimulating the economy and employment; supporting businesses, jobs and incomes; protecting workers in the workplace; and resorting to social dialogue to find solutions.