COVID-19 and labour statistics

The coronavirus pandemic has a large impact on our lives and our societies — but what is the impact and consequences for labour markets and the collection of labour statistics?

Table of Contents

See also

Labour market impacts

At a glance

Multiple crises threaten recovery

While the impact of COVID-19 has waned in most countries, multiple and overlapping economic and political crises are threatening labour market recovery around the world. These crises are likely to further increase labour market inequalities due to the disproportionate impact on certain groups of workers and firms, while contributing to a growing divergence between developed and developing economies. The latter had already been recovering more slowly from the COVID-19 pandemic, and are now facing less policy space to protect hard-hit workers and enterprises during the most recent crises.

Recovery in hours worked remains uneven and is now threatened by slowdown

The encouraging recovery in hours worked seen at the beginning of 2022 has not continued, although there continue to be significant differences between regions and income groups. Estimates indicate that in the third quarter of 2022, hours worked were 1.5 per cent below the level of the fourth quarter of 2019 (the pre-crisis benchmark), equivalent to a deficit of 40 million full-time jobs. Also, progress in narrowing the gender gap in hours worked is at risk because of the slowdown in recovery.

Divergence in employment persists

In the first half of 2022, employment-to-population ratios had returned to or exceeded the pre-crisis level in the majority of advanced economies, while in most middle-income countries with available data, employment deficits persisted relative to the pre-crisis situation. Available data shows that high-skilled occupations (managers, professionals, and technicians and associate professionals) had experienced a stronger recovery by 2022 Q2 compared with low- and medium-skilled occupations, including services and sales workers, which remain below the level of the same quarter in 2019.

Informal job growth outpacing formal work

Concentrated in developing countries, informal job growth in 2021 fully reversed the losses experienced in 2020, whereas formal employment did not. For 2022, informal jobs are estimated to be growing at the same pace as formal employment, jeopardizing the slow but consistent trend towards formalization observed over the previous 15 years.

Labour market prospects extremely uncertain

The outlook for the labour market is currently highly uncertain, with growing downside risks, including the impacts of high inflation, tightening monetary policy, increasing debt burdens and declining consumer confidence. While it normally takes time for an economic slowdown or a recession to result in job destruction and unemployment, available data suggests that a sharp labour market slowdown is already underway. On current trends, global employment growth will deteriorate significantly in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Data catalogue

For more indicators, see our short-term labour force statistics (STLFS) on the data page

For previous versions of the data, see the table below. These are for reference only and not comparable with the data series provided above.

Data collection

The COVID-19 pandemic created many of practical and conceptual challenges, as well as a major demand for enhanced data to describe the impact on labour markets and the world of work. The ILO has produced a range of information and guides to describe the impacts COVID-19 has had on data collection, and support countries to continue to produce relevant data.

How COVID-19 is changing the world: a statistical perspective

Resources

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