The pandemic caused an unprecedented crisis in employment, here a recount of the damages

The first wave of the pandemic in the region took 31 million jobs. But close to the end of 2021, with the decline in infections and deaths from covid-19, and with most economic activities operating in good part of their capacity, people excluded before the crisis are still so today: women, youths, informal and of low schooling.

According to the report From crisis to opportunity: Covid-19 in the Latin American labor market and the Caribe, lThe health emergency caused a catastrophe for the world of work “without precedents”. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) document offers “hitherto unknown details about the uneven impact for the most vulnerable groups.”

“At the height of the pandemic in the region”, in June 2020, there was a “14% drop in total employment”. In Mexico, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi), more than 12 million people they stopped receiving income from their work.

After hitting bottom, “began a recovery process that slowed down at the beginning of this year.” In our country, the beginning of winter and the holidays took the bill with more infections and the return to the shelter at the beginning of 2021.

But another factor is holding back the restoration of pre-pandemic levels. “The countries with the least recovery in their labor markets (on average) are those where the differential impact between men and women has been greater.” In other words, in those where there were fewer paid female workers, it has been more difficult for those who were left unemployed to be rehired.

In Mexico, the unemployment rate of women it was eight times higher than that of men. In addition, sectors such as domestic workers, made up mostly of women, had a reduction in employment of up to 33 percent last year.

A crisis like no other

Latin America and the Caribbean is the most unequal region in the world, says the IDB. And “the covid-19 crisis will exacerbate inequity,” expanding the gender gaps, punishing young, informal and less educated people more.

To assess the level of damage, international organizations often compare this crisis with the one left by the Second World War. However, this time the trigger was health, explains the IDB, and it was coexistence that spread the disease.

Governments decreed the closure of non-essential activities to avoid physical proximity. This meant that, between February and June 2020, the informal employment fall 19% and the formal, 8 percent. Two out of three lost jobs were informal. Unlike other recessions, this time informal employment worked not even as a last resort, says the IDB.

But the pandemic affected all working people in some way. A good part of those who kept their jobs did so at the cost of reduce hours and wages. Mexico had a 6% decrease in working time and 7% in wages.

The report also states that “workers with low education have lost jobs between 3 and 4 times more than those with high education, particularly women.” Again women were the most affected: a quarter of informal workers with low education were unemployed, while 3% of those who worked in the formal sector and have several years of study did not continue working.

In Mexico, 11% of women with up to 8 years of study lost their job. In Chile, almost 40% of the workers with this education could no longer continue in their work. And 6% of Mexican men who only studied primary school were fired, the percentage for Chilean men was 25 percent.

Telecommuting, very limited option

People with more studies tend to have better paid and more stable jobs, and the economic capacity of the workers played an important role between being without a job or keeping it: telework.

The home office “It became an option for the population that carries out activities that can be carried out online. This is one of the reasons that explains one of the clearest differences between high-income and low-income workers: their ability to telework”.

Between 10 and 35% of people could telework in the region, “with a clear relationship between this percentage and the degree of development of their countries.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, in Mexico, 50% of those with a bachelor’s degree could work from home through communication technologies; slightly more than 15% of workers with an upper secondary level and less than 10% if they only had secondary or primary education.

By gender, 35% of Mexican men were able to telework and around 16% of women in this country.

The age It was another circumstance that the labor market does not let pass and less in a crisis. 6% of men up to 24 years old were without work; in the case of women, the rate was 11 percent. 4.3% of men between 56 and 70 could no longer work, while 11% of women in that age group were in the same situation.

The IDB report indicates that the first public policies, such as helping companies maintain jobs by providing liquidity, or reducing the impact of the recession on workers and their families with wage subsidies, were a good solution.

“But now, countries will have to continue with labor subsidies and provide training programs for the newly unemployed, reviewing coverage, size and targeting as the pandemic and fiscal conditions evolve, ”he concludes.

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