Global unemployment is projected to stand at 207 million in 2022, surpassing its 2019 level by 21 million, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has revealed said in its flagship report, ‘World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2022.’

This outlook represents a substantial deterioration since the projections made in the previous edition of World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends published in June 2021, when the shortfall in working hours relative to the fourth quarter of 2019 was projected to narrow to less than one per cent in 2022,” ILO said.

This year’s World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends provides a comprehensive assessment of how the labour market recovery has unfolded across the world, reflecting different national approaches to tackling the COVID-19 crisis. The report, which analyses global patterns, regional differences and outcomes across economic sectors and groups of workers, also offers labour market projections for 2022 and 2023.

The ILO, in the report, said the total number of the unemployed is projected to decline by seven million this year to 207 million; in comparison, the 2019 figure was 186 million. The report, which was posted on ILO’s website and accessed by The Nation, said global labour market recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is fastest in high income countries.

“These (high income countries) account for about half of the global decline in unemployment between 2020 and 2022 while constituting only around a fifth of the global labour force.

“By contrast, since the onset of the pandemic, lower-middle-income countries have fared the worst, and they are also seeing the slowest recovery.

The report while reiterating that labour market recovery patterns vary significantly across regions, countries and sectors, said since the onset of the recovery, employment growth trends in low- and middle-income countries have remained significantly below those observed in richer economies.

According to ILO, this is owing largely to the lower vaccination rates and tighter fiscal space in developing countries. “The impact has been particularly serious for developing nations that experienced higher levels of inequality, more divergent working conditions and weaker social protection systems even before the pandemic,” it pointed out.

The ILO said: “Overall, key labour market indicators in all regions – Africa, the Americas, the Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia – have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. For all regions, projections to 2023 suggest that a full recovery will remain elusive.”

It however, noted that the European and Pacific regions are projected to come closest to that goal, whereas the outlook is the most negative for Latin America and the Caribbean and for South East Asia.

Commenting on the report, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said what had been a modest and uneven global labour market recovery lost momentum during the second half of 2021. Consequently, as the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third calendar year, the global employment and social outlook remains uncertain and fragile.

While stating that throughout 2021, the pandemic weakened the economic, financial and social fabric in almost every country, regardless of development status, Ryder said at the same time, significant differences emerged, driven largely by differences in vaccination coverage and economic recovery measures.

“This resulted in developed economies recouping significant elements of their employment and income losses, while emerging and developing countries continued to struggle with the labour market fallout of workplace closures and weak economic activity,” he said.

The ILO DG, however, said “Without concerted and effective international and domestic policies, it is likely that in many countries it will take years to repair this damage, with long-term consequences for labour force participation, household income, and social – and possibly political – cohesion.”

Ryder further said the current crisis has made it more challenging to accomplish the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially those relating to long-standing decent work deficits.

“It is, therefore, essential that governments and employers’ and workers’ organisations come together with renewed determination to address these challenges,” he recommended.

Ryder pointed out that “In this difficult context, in June 2021 the ILO’s 187 Member States adopted a Global Call to Action for a Human-Centred Recovery from the COVID-19 Crisis that is Inclusive, Sustainable and Resilient.”

Reflecting the Global Call, he said this report includes a summary of key policy recommendations in support of sustained national and international efforts to bring about that human-centred recovery.

The global labour market outlook has deteriorated since the ILO’s last projections; a return to pre-pandemic performance is likely to remain elusive for much of the world over the coming years.

On the basis of the latest economic growth forecasts, the ILO is projecting that total hours worked globally in 2022 will remain almost two per cent below their pre-pandemic level when adjusted for population growth, corresponding to a deficit of 52 million full-time equivalent jobs (assuming a 48-hour working week).