The "world of work" is being buffeted by multiple crises, says the ninth edition of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Monitor. The report says that after significant gains during the last quarter of 2021, the number of hours worked globally dropped in the first quarter of 2022, to 3.8% below the employment situation before the pandemic. About 11.2 crore jobs might have lost between this period, according to the report.
The gender gap in India’s employment scenario is mentioned in the report on the "world of work". The report said both India and lower-middle-income countries excluding India experienced a deterioration of the gender gap in work hours in the second quarter of 2020. “However, because the initial level of hours worked by women in India was very low, the reduction in hours worked by women in India has only a weak influence on the aggregate for lower-middle-income countries. In contrast, the reduction in hours worked by men in India has a large impact on the aggregates,” the report mentions.
Explaining the data, an ILO official told The Hindu that for every 100 women at work prior to the pandemic, 12.3 women would have lost their job as an average through the entire period considered by the report. The official added that, in contrast, for every 100 men, the equivalent figure would have been 7.5. “Hence, the pandemic seems to have exacerbated the already substantial gender imbalances in employment participation in the country,” the official said.
The fresh lockdowns in China, the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and the global rise in the prices of food and fuel are cited as the main reasons for the findings. The ILO urged its member countries to take a humane approach to address the situation. Financial turbulence, potential debt distress and global supply chain disruption points at a growing risk of a further deterioration in hours worked in 2022, as well as a broader impact on global labour markets in the months to come, the report said.
The report added that a “great and growing divergence between richer and poorer economies” continues to characterise the recovery. “While high-income countries experienced a recovery in hours worked, low- and lower-middle-income economies suffered setbacks in the first quarter of the year with a 3.6 and 5.7 per cent gap respectively when compared to the pre-crisis benchmark,” the report said.
Commenting on the report, trade unions urged the Centre to address the issue of unemployment. “Women employment in India has come down, particularly in sectors such as healthcare as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ILO report suggests that the purchasing capacity of the workers should be improved. ILO has been proposing decent jobs and decent wages. We do not have decent employment here in India. Most people are on contract without any social security. If there are no decent wages, purchasing power will also come down. The Code on Wages was passed in 2019 but is not yet implemented. The Wage Committee in 1948 asked the government to implement minimum wage, living wage and decent wage. We have not implemented even minimum wage yet under pressure from industrialists,” Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) general secretary Binoy Kumar Sinha said.
All India Trade Union Congress general secretary Amarjeet Kaur said the ILO’s projections have underestimated the real picture in India. “According to our calculation, 30%-60% of workers — five crore people — who lost jobs during the lockdown have not joined any work. One-third of MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) can never be revived according to a survey by the associations of MSMEs. Hawkers and vendors facing problems due to high prices of fruits and vegetables. The Centre had accepted that 50% of the women workforce returned back to cities after the first lockdown. Overall women participation has also gone down. We need more jobs. The governments have to do a lot. They must ensure that there are no retrenchments,” Ms. Kaur said.