Heat stress singes India most; ILO pegs cost at 34 mn jobs in 2030

Report projects 2% working hours to be lost worldwide every year by 2030

Published: Tuesday 02 July 2019
Photo: Getty Images

India's workforce has been the worst-affected by heat stress, according to International Labour Organization (ILO). The rise in body heat from working and environmental conditions will lead to a productivity loss of 2.2 per cent of total working hours around the world by 2030. That's approximately 80 million full-time jobs, 34 million of which will be in India.

“The country most affected by heat stress is India, which lost 4.3 per cent of working hours in 1995 and is projected to lose 5.8 per cent of working hours in 2030... as a result of heat stress,” according to a report released by the United Nations agency on July 1, 2019.

Although most of the impact in India will be felt in the agricultural sector, more and more working hours are expected to be lost in the construction sector, where heat stress affects both male and female workers, according to the Working on a Warmer Planet—The Impact of Heat Stress on Labour Productivity and Decent Work.

Agriculture has traditionally employed the largest chunk of India's workforce. Successive droughts and low returns have anyway prompted many to drop farming and migrate away to urban centres in search of livelihood. Several of them are absorbed by the construction sector in non-formal arrangements.

“The economic, social and health effects of heat stress would make it harder to tackle poverty and promote human development, and, consequently, also to attain most of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” the report warned.  

The report also flagged India's brickmaking industry, which employs millions. These workers, several of whom are children, often have a low socio-economic status, work under harsh conditions, and receive low wages or even none at all. The severe risks faced by such workers include high temperature and radiant heat levels, a heavy physical workload, and also a lack of awareness of occupational safety and health matters, according to the report.

“The impact of heat stress on labour productivity is a serious consequence of climate change,” said Catherine Saget, chief of unit at ILO’s research department and one of the main authors of the report. “We can expect to see more inequality between low- and high-income countries and worsening working conditions for the most vulnerable.”

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