Covid-19 destroyed 22 million jobs in advanced countries

A worker wearing a protective mask, gloves and face shield disinfects a cash register inside an Ikea store.

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No less than 22 million jobs have been lost in advanced economies due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development announced on Wednesday.

The OECD’s annual job outlook shows that job retention programs put in place at the height of the coronavirus crisis have saved some 21 million jobs. Yet rich countries face the threat of rising long-term unemployment rates as many low-skilled workers displaced by the pandemic struggle to fill new job openings.

“Many of the jobs that were lost during this pandemic crisis will not be recovered,” said Stéphane Carcillo, head of the OECD’s employment and income division, during a briefing on the occasion of the publication of the report.

In May 2021, unemployment among OECD countries fell to 6.6%, but remained at least 1% above pre-pandemic levels. Of the 22 million unemployed people in the OECD area, 8 million are unemployed and 14 million are considered inactive.

Employment recovery forecasts in Q3 2023

The OECD has said it does not expect aggregate employment in member countries to return to normal until the third quarter of 2023. However, some countries – such as those in Asia-Pacific – that have demonstrated better management of the crisis, could improve more quickly. .

The impact of this persistent underemployment is expected to be felt most by vulnerable people, women and low-skilled workers, who are disproportionately represented in sectors hit hard by the pandemic.

The scars could be felt for a long time for young people in terms of jobs and wages.

Stefano Scarpetta

Director of Employment, Labor and Social Affairs, OECD

Young people are also likely to be more affected than the general adult workforce, according to the report.

“The scars could be felt for a long time to young people in terms of jobs and wages,” said Stefano Scarpetta, director of employment, labor and social affairs at the OECD.

According to the OECD, the impact for young people has been at least twice as high as for adults in general – and young people in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Spain have been among the most affected.

Young people hit hard

This comes against the backdrop of an already difficult employment landscape for young people. It took a full 10 years for youth employment to return to normal levels after the 2008 global financial crisis, according to OECD data.

To avoid this “healing effect”, bigger steps need to be taken this time around to invest in young people – for example through learning and retraining, Scarpetta said.

“The key message is: we should do better this time around. We cannot have young people so badly affected,” he said.

Meanwhile, the emergence of remote working has been a bright spot, encouraging employers to be more flexible and inclusive in their work policies.

Going forward, Scarpetta said there is “potential for telecommuting to become more prevalent.” However, accessibility challenges remain, both in terms of who can work remotely and the resources required to do so.

“Otherwise, it could become another divide in the labor market,” he said.

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