Global policymakers face a complex set of divergent economic challenges in the year ahead

More than half a million people have lost or been forced out of their jobs in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over, according to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization (ILO). noted Wednesday.

In a warning that the economy has been “paralyzed” since the de facto authorities took control last August, ILO says there have been huge losses of jobs and working hours.

Women were particularly affected.

By the middle of this year, job losses are expected to rise to nearly 700,000 – with the gloomiest forecast topping 900,000 – due to the crisis in Afghanistan and “restrictions to the participation of women in the workplace”.

gender gap

Employment levels for women are already extremely low by global standards, but the ILO said they would have fallen by 16% in the third quarter of 2021 and could fall by 21-28% by mid-2022.

“The situation in Afghanistan is critical and immediate support for stabilization and recovery is needed,” said Ramin Behzad, International Labor Organization (ILO) Senior Coordinator for Afghanistan. “While the priority is to meet immediate humanitarian needs, sustainable and inclusive recovery will depend on people and communities having access to decent employment, livelihoods and basic services.

Hundreds of thousands of job losses have been seen in several key sectors that have been “devastated” since the takeover, the ILO said.

These include agriculture and the civil service, where workers have been laid off or left without pay. In construction, the sector’s 538,000 workers – 99% of whom are men – have also suffered as major infrastructure projects stall.

Strengths undermined

The Taliban takeover also led to ‘hundreds of thousands’ of Afghan security forces losing their jobs, the ILO said, noting that teachers and health workers have been deeply affected by the lack of liquidity in the economy, in a context of declining support from international donors.

As the crisis continues to spread, the ILO Explain that the Taliban’s capture of Kabul on August 15 threatened the hard-won development gains of the past two decades.

Domestic markets were “largely disrupted”, the UN agency said, while productive economic activity plummeted, driving up production costs.

At the same time, because Afghanistan’s $9.5 billion in assets have been frozen, “foreign aid, trade and investment … have been severely affected,” the statement continued. ILO, pointing to cash shortages and restrictions on bank withdrawals, causing misery for businesses, workers and households.

Children pay the price

Lack of work also threatens to worsen levels of child labor in Afghanistan, where only 40 percent of children aged 5 to 17 attend school.

In absolute numbers, the ILO noted that there are over 770,000 boys and around 300,000 girls involved in child labour.

The problem is worse in rural areas – where 9.9 per cent or 839,000 children – are much more likely to be in child labor than in urban areas (2.9 per cent or 80,000).

In supporting the people of Afghanistan this year, the UN’s top priorities are to deliver lifesaving assistance, maintain essential services, and preserve the social investments and community systems that are essential to meeting basic human needs.

In support of this strategy, the ILO is committed to working with employers and trade unions to promote productive employment and decent work.

The organization focuses on four key areas: emergency employment services, employment-intensive investments, enterprise promotion and skills development, respecting labor rights, equal gender, social dialogue, social protection, elimination of child labor and inclusion of persons with disabilities.