by Martina Fuchs
GENEVA, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- The International Labor Organization (ILO) on Monday warned that the prospects for a recovery of the global labor market in 2021 will be "slow, uneven and uncertain" due to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its latest "ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work" report released Monday, the Geneva-based UN agency confirmed the massive impact that labor markets suffered in 2020.
The numbers showed that 8.8 percent of global working hours were lost last year relative to the fourth quarter of 2019, which is equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs.
"The figures that we have published today show that 2020 saw the biggest shock to the world of work since the 1930s, since the Great Depression. This is really serious," ILO Director-General Guy Ryder told Xinhua in an interview on Monday.
These massive losses resulted in an 8.3-percent decline in global labor income before support measures were included, equivalent to 3.7 trillion U.S. dollars, or 4.4 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), the ILO data showed.
Asked about the outlook for the global labor market this year, Ryder said: "We have done three scenarios how the recovery might go in 2021: a baseline scenario, a more optimistic one, and a more pessimistic one. "
Ryder said that China's labor market recovery showed promising signs for this year.
"We all know that China has recovered very, very strongly from the hard blow it suffered very early in the pandemic, in the second quarter of 2020. China was one of the countries which returned to positive growth overall in 2020," he said.
"We see for example manufacturing and industrial exports moving very quickly. China stands out as something as a leader in the recovery process," Ryder added.
The report also highlighted an uneven global impact from the crisis on different demographic groups.
"Women have been more affected than men by the pandemic's labor market disruptions," it wrote. "Globally, employment losses for women stand at 5 percent, versus 3.9 percent for men. In particular, women were much more likely than men to drop out of the labor market and become inactive."
Younger workers have also been particularly hard hit by either losing their jobs, dropping out of the labor force, or delaying entry into it. The employment loss among youth (15-24 years old) stood at 8.7 percent, compared to 3.7 percent for adults.
This "highlights the all too real risk of a lost generation", the Monitor report wrote.
In terms of sectors, the worst affected globally have been accommodation and food services, where employment dropped by more than 20 percent on average, followed by retail and manufacturing, according to the report.
On the brighter side, employment in information and communication, and finance and insurance, increased in the second and third quarters of 2020.
Looking ahead, Ryder stressed that most countries are expected to experience a relatively strong recovery in the second half of this year as vaccination programs are taking effect, but warned that "massive uncertainties" still exist with regards to the future path of the pandemic.
"We believe that we need to apply the right policies to make sure that what we are heading towards is what we call a human-centered recovery -- one that puts jobs, incomes, workers' rights and dialogue right at the center of policy," he told Xinhua.
"It's not a matter of going back to where we were before the pandemic. We want to build back better to make the improvements needed for a very long time," he said. Enditem