Nearly 5 million workers and their families in sub-Saharan Africa have been pushed into extreme poverty due to COVID-19, ILO says
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed nearly five million workers and their families in sub-Saharan Africa into extreme poverty due to working hour losses equivalent to 13.5 million full-time jobs, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has said in its flagship report.
The employment-to-population ratio (EPR) in sub-Saharan Africa has declined by two percentage points due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ILO has noted.
The report defined the ratio as “the proportion of a country’s working age population that is employed. A high ratio means that a large proportion of a country’s population is employed, while a low ratio means that a large share of the population is not involved directly in market-related activities, because they are either unemployed or (more likely) out of the labour force altogether.”
It has downgraded its 2022 labour market recovery forecast in its flagship report, World Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2022. The organisation has projected a continuing major deficit in the number of working hours compared to the pre-pandemic era.
The EPR ratio is projected to remain well below its pre-crisis level through 2023, which is alarming given the long-term trends in sub-Saharan Africa before the pandemic, the report warned.
Women accounted for the lion’s share of net job losses in the region, partly because of their over-representation among informal workers, the report said.
Informal workers were heavily affected by lockdowns and workplace and border closures. Other vulnerable groups in sub-Saharan Africa include migrant workers and cross-border traders, both of whom have been heavily affected by border closures.
Even if employment recovered to pre-crisis levels, employment growth in Africa, specifically decent work, would remain limited, the report said.
This was because employment growth in sub-Saharan Africa mostly consisted of subsistence agriculture and self-employment, often in the informal sector.
The ILO report also warned that the unemployment rate in North Africa is expected to start declining in 2022 but will remain above its pre-crisis level of 11.1 per cent in 2023.
The unemployment rate, which increased to 12.8 per cent in 2020, remained generally stable in 2021.
In North Africa, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in substantial losses in working hours in 2020 and a net decline in employment of over 2.1 million.
Youth, aged 15-24 years accounted for nearly a third of net job losses in the region. In addition to job and income losses and the risk of deteriorating rights at work, the pandemic has disrupted education and training.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit African countries hard — fall in trade disrupted supply chains, remittances shrunk and tourism came to a halt.
A crisis-induced jobs gap of nearly 17 million is estimated for Africa in 2020, which includes jobs lost in 2020 combined with forgone job growth as a result of the crisis, according to the report World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2021.
The pandemic reversed some of the progress made in reducing poverty in Africa by driving up the share of workers living in extreme poverty.
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