Modest progress in workplace gender equality risks being reversed by the disproportionate impact of the deepening global jobs crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the International Labour Organisation has said.
The Geneva-based ILO said its latest update showed restrictions on activity during the second quarter had led to an even bigger blow to employment than it previously feared, and that women had been hit harder than men.
The UN body found there was a 14% drop in global hours worked between the final three months of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020 – the equivalent of the loss of 400m full-time jobs. A month ago the ILO estimated that 305m jobs had been lost.
The ILO said that even an exceptionally rapid bounce-back in the global economy in the second half of the year would still result in a loss of working hours of 1.2% in 2020 – the equivalent of 34m jobs. It added that its baseline forecast was for 140m jobs to be lost, rising to 340m in the event of a second wave of the pandemic.
The report said women were being especially hard hit by the crisis because they were over-represented in some of the economic sectors worst affected by the crisis, such as accommodation, food, sales and manufacturing. Globally, almost 510 million or 40% of all employed women work in the four most affected sectors, compared with 36.6% of men.
The ILO added that women were also more likely to be employed in the domestic work and health and social care work sectors, where there was a greater risk of job losses and infection. The pre-pandemic unequal distribution of unpaid care work had also worsened during the crisis, exacerbated by the closure of schools and care services.
Only 7% of the worlds workers lived in countries without some sort of workplace closures, the report noted, with the Americas experiencing the greatest restrictions and the biggest drop in hours worked.
Guy Ryder, the ILO director general, said: “Although countries are at different stages of the pandemic and a lot has been done, we need to redouble our efforts if we want to come out of this crisis in a better shape than when it started.”