On the brink of a global crash, it’s time for the UK to show some leadership

A new report has highlighted that informal economy workers across the wold face having their livelihoods destroyed

Dire warnings of a deep recession in the UK, Europe and the developed world are filling the media, with major job losses predicted and stacking up in manufacturing, aerospace, aviation, retail, hospitality and other sectors heading for sharp decline.

A new report from the International Labour Organisation has highlighted the drop in working hours globally due to the Covid19 virus which shows that 1.6 billion workers globally in the informal economy (almost half of the global workforce) face having their livelihoods, not matter how meagre, destroyed.

According to the ILO the drop in available working hours in the current second quarter of 2020 is expected to be even worse than previously estimated. The previous estimate was for a 6.7% drop – equivalent to 195 million full-time jobs as a result the extensive lockdowns across the globe.

Compared to pre-virus levels, a 10.5% deterioration is expected, which equates to 305 million full-time jobs (based on a 48 hour week).

Estimates suggest a 12.4% reduction of working hours in the Americas (compared to pre-virus levels) and 11.8% for Europe and Central Asia. The estimates for the rest of the regional groups are all above 9.5%.

The 1.6 billion ‘informal economy’ workers (the most vulnerable in the labour market), out of a global workforce of 3.3 billion, have already suffered massive damage to their ability to earn even a living.

Without an alternative income these workers and their families will have no means to survive the a recession. The ILO report also predicts that more than 436 million enterprises/companies face high risks of ‘serious disruption’ ie: massive downsizing and closures.

These include 232 million in wholesale and retail, 111 million in manufacturing, 51 million in hotel and food and 42 million in housing and other business activities.

In response the ILO has called for urgent, targeted and flexible measures to support workers and businesses, particularly SMEs.

“For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. As the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent.” said Guy Ryder, the ILO‘s Director-General.

Ryder has called for international coordination on stimulus packages and debt relief measures as being critical to making a global recovery effective and sustainable and adds that that ILO standards can provide a framework.

“As the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent,” said Ryder.

“For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. They have no savings or any access to credit. These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don’t help them now, these enterprises will simply perish.”

Lacking a powerful global leadership notably from the USA, where Trump is in meltdown, the desperately slow response from the EU which saw Ursula von der Leyen the President of the European Commission having to apologise to Italy and the UK government’s inexperience, self inflicted errors and bungling over PPE and testing means the ILO’s demands coupled with nationalism will be made difficult.

Tony Burke is the TUC General Council’s Lead on employment and trade union rights, Unite Assistant General Secretary, and Chair of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom.

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