Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Science & Tech
  2. Coronavirus
29 April 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Half of all workers in danger of having livelihoods destroyed, UN warns

By Samuel Horti

Half of the global workforce are in “immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed” by the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nation’s labour agency has said. 

The International Labour Organization (ILO) warned that 1.6 billion workers in the “informal economy” have suffered “massive damage to their capacity to earn a living” because of lockdown measures or because they work in sectors hardest-hit by the virus.

“Without alternative income sources, these workers and their families will have no means to survive,” the ILO said.

These 1.6 billion workers represent about three quarters of all workers in the informal economy, and just under half of the total global workforce of 3.3 billion people.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

In the first month of the criris, the ILO estimates that informal workers lost 60 per cent of their normal income. The figure was 81 per cent in Africa and the Americas, 21.6 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, and 70 per cent in Europe and Central Asia.

In the second quarter of the year, the ILO predicts that the number of total working hours woldwide, across all sectors of the economy, will drop 10.5 per cent lower than pre-crisis levels, equivalent to 305 million full time jobs.

The ILO called for “stronger employment policies… better-resourced and comprehensive social protection systems, and international co-ordination on stimulus packages and debt relief measures”.

“As the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent,” said ILO Director General Guy Ryder. “For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. Millions of businesses around the world are barely breathing. They have no savings or access to credit. These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don’t help them now, these enterprises will simply perish.”