- The coronavirus and the measures to contain it have caused a severe global economic recession.
- The less educated, the lower paid, women and young people were more likely to lose their jobs.
- Governments have committed exceptional resources to the recovery, providing an opportunity to build a more equitable labor market.
Covid-19 has had a life-changing effect on the world of work and continues to do so in many countries.
The measures put in place to contain the virus have caused serious economic hardship. The closures have closed businesses, cost jobs, and forced billions to isolate themselves at home, away from extended family and friends.
The inequalities in society that preceded the pandemic have worsened. The pay gap between men and women has widened, youth unemployment has increased and many employees with precarious contracts have lost their jobs.
But the pandemic has offered governments a chance to tackle all of these issues, as immunization programs bring hope for recovery. Instead of going back to the life we had before the pandemic, some policymakers believe now is the time to invest in jobs that offer security, better prospects and higher pay.
When will the jobs be back?
The pandemic prompted governments and central banks to provide unprecedented stimulus measures to protect jobs; The OECD estimates that 21 million jobs have been saved in this way. But what happens when this safety net is removed?
The OECD Employment Outlook 2021 suggests that even in the richest countries in the world, the return to pre-pandemic employment rates will be uneven. Israel, for example, is not expected to see jobs return to 2019 levels until 2025, four years after Australia.
Long-term unemployed struggle to find work
The downturn in many OECD economies has meant that more job seekers have been left out of work for longer than they expected before the pandemic.
This can pose problems for future employment, because the longer a person is without work, the harder it is to find a job.
Unemployment is higher than in 2019
While unemployment has started to decline, it has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels. In addition, job losses have been disproportionately higher among young people, the lowest paid and workers in sectors most affected by the closures, such as the hospitality industry. These are also traditionally roles with the least protection.
The youth employment gap is widening
The employment gap between those aged 15 to 24 and older workers has been widening for decades, but the past year has seen the chasm widen. A greater proportion of jobs were lost among young people, who were also less able to find work.
Youth unemployment and underemployment (when people would like to work more hours than they do) particularly affect women, people from disadvantaged backgrounds and minority groups. Left unchecked, it could worsen social exclusion and potentially fuel unrest, warns the OECD.
Not everyone can work remotely
Many people took the opportunity to work from home during pandemic shutdowns, swapping an early morning commute for another hour in bed. Others, especially in lower paid and labor-intensive industries, had no such choice and had to go to work as usual. This affected the less educated to a greater extent than college graduates.
A different future
The economic blow from the coronavirus was worse than the 2008 recession, with the OECD estimating more than 110 million jobs were lost.
Governments are moving from their initial crisis response to long-term stimulus packages. This year, support for job seekers increased in 53% of countries.
However, data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) shows that the economic recovery is affected by the country you live in. Economic forecasts for next year are revised up for developed countries with vaccines, while developing economies, especially in Asia, have been revised down.
The first global pandemic in over 100 years, COVID-19 has spread around the world at an unprecedented rate. At the time of writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died from the virus.
As countries seek to recover, some of the longer-term economic, trade, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just starting to become visible.
To help all stakeholders – communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-up effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group , launched its COVID -19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications – a companion for policymakers, building on the annual report of the Global Risks Forum.
Businesses are invited to join the work of the Forum to help manage identified emerging risks of COVID-19 across sectors to shape a better future. Read the full COVID-19 Risk Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and Implications report here, as well as our impact story with further information.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) calls on policymakers to take a long-term view. In its global call to action, the ILO argues that job recovery plans must be inclusive, with specific support to help disadvantaged groups. For the recovery to last, policymakers need to include excellent training programs focused on investing in high-paying, quality jobs.