(Bloomberg) – The damage inflicted on the global job market by the coronavirus is proving worse than initially estimated and will be impossible to repair in the second half of 2020 even under the most optimistic scenario, according to the International Labor Organization.

Working hours in the second quarter were 14% lower than before the virus, equivalent to a loss of 400 million full-time jobs, the Geneva-based organization said Tuesday. The sharp increase from a previous estimate of 305 million reflects a worsening of the situation in recent weeks, especially in developing regions, he said.

The data adds to evidence that the economic consequences of the virus are being felt disproportionately among the least well-off, exacerbating existing wealth and social inequalities. While some jobs will return, weak demand could persist in many industries and is unlikely to fully recover for a time.

Policymakers pay special attention “to the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and those most affected by the pandemic,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “Everyone has recognized that the pandemic has made very clear the inequalities, the precariousness of the working life of many millions of people, and those deficits have left terrible human costs.”

South America suffered the most severe deterioration in the last three months, with a loss of working hours of more than 20%, according to the ILO. In Asia and the Pacific, the reduction amounted to 13.5%, making it the region with the greatest impact in absolute figures.

The increasing damage in these regions is aligned with a shifting epicenter of the pandemic that has claimed more than 500,000 lives worldwide. It was first China, then Europe, and now developing countries with more fragile health care systems like Brazil and India are struggling. The United States is also adding infections at a record rate.

The crisis hit women more than men, threatening to undo some of the gender equality gains made before the crisis, the ILO said. A large number of them work in the most affected sectors, such as accommodation, food services and retail. There was also a greater brake on women due to a greater demand for childcare during the crisis.

The losses suffered in the labor market so far will not be repaired in the second half of the year, even under the most optimistic assumptions of the ILO. In its base scenario, working hours would continue to be 4.9% lower in the fourth quarter compared to the previous year, equivalent to 140 million full-time jobs.

Much will depend on the response of policymakers, who face a great challenge even after deploying an unprecedented stimulus to protect companies and workers. The ILO warned governments not to repeat the mistakes of the financial crisis and tighten their belts too soon.

She said that disadvantaged groups such as women, youth and informal workers needed specific support to prevent existing injustices from escalating during the recovery. He also called for greater international solidarity to help poorer countries through measures such as debt relief.

Original Note: Virus Labor Market Destruction Is Proving Worse Than Anticipated

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