ECLAC and ILO analyze labor challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean

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ECLAC and ILO analyze labor challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean
Fri May 22, 2020

The agencies indicate that the crisis would cause 11.5 million new unemployed in the region


Prioritizing occupational safety and health policies so that post-crisis productive and employment reactivation of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is safe and healthy, is essential and will require participatory management of occupational safety and health, with Participation of employers and workers, for the foundation of return policies, CEPAL and the International Labor Organization (ILO) assured today in a new joint publication.

Issue No. 22 of the Labor Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean report. The work in times of pandemic: challenges against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) (May 2020) was presented simultaneously in Santiago de Chile and Lima, Peru, through a joint virtual press conference led by the Executive Secretary from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, and the ILO Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Vinícius Pinheiro.

In addition to providing estimates on the dynamics of the labor market in recent months, the joint ECLAC-ILO report explores some of the policies implemented by countries to protect formal employment, protect the earnings of workers in the formal economy, and informal and protect the productive sector.

According to the document, the implementation of policies for reactivation will require a strong component of training and education in safety and health for actors in the world of work. This requires reinforced institutional and budgetary resources that guarantee compliance, and must include good practices such as the implementation of a health and safety at work protocol that includes induction of personnel, the adoption of outdated entry and exit times for avoid crowds, disinfection routines and hand washing system, mandatory use of masks, and a protocol in case any worker shows symptoms.

It also adds that if the crisis continues for a longer time, a new round of measures will be necessary, aimed both at protecting employment and income for workers and limiting the impact on companies, with a special focus on vulnerable groups such as migrants in an unregulated situation , domestic workers and caregivers of the elderly, informal salaried and independent workers in critical sectors, and health workers in the first line of response to COVID-19.

Looking to the future, both United Nations officials point out that the crisis is beginning to forge numerous changes in the world of work that will be permanent in order to move towards "better normality." "The policies for recovery must aim not only at a 'new normal' similar to the previous one, but at a 'better normal' with greater formality, equity and social dialogue," said Bárcena and Pinheiro.

In terms of the situation, ECLAC and ILO indicate that the pandemic has generated strong negative effects in the labor market, with consequences in the formal sector (reduction of hours, fall in wages and dismissals) and the informal sector (fall in employment due to distancing and prohibition. circulation, less access to income compensation). Likewise, they warn that working women are the most vulnerable and labor-intensive sectors such as tourism, commerce, manufacturing, real estate and entertainment have been highly affected. In addition, Micro and Small Businesses concentrate 46.6% of total employment in the region and are at high risk of experiencing bankruptcies.

Before the pandemic Latin America and the Caribbean showed low growth and in 2020 the worst economic contraction since 1930 is expected, with an estimated drop in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of -5.3%, which will have negative effects about the job market. An increase in the unemployment rate of at least 3.4 percentage points is projected, reaching 11.5%, which is equivalent to more than 11.5 million new unemployed. If the economic contraction deepens, the unemployment rate will be higher.

Along with the increase in unemployment, a marked deterioration in the quality of employment is expected, the report indicates. Informal work is the source of income for many households in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the average informality rate is approximately 54%, according to ILO estimates, a situation that affects the most vulnerable groups.

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