Women, low-paid workers disproportionately affected by pandemic, says ILO
A new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has disclosed that the wages of women and low-paid workers have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
The report found out that monthly wages fell or grew more slowly in the first six months of 2020, as a result of the pandemic, in two-thirds of countries, and that the crisis is likely to inflict massive downward pressure on wages in the near future.
It explained that while average wages in one-third of the countries that provided data appeared to increase, was largely caused by substantial numbers of lower-paid workers losing their jobs and therefore skewing the average since they were no longer included in the data for wage-earners.
It said in countries where strong measures were taken to preserve employment, the effects of the crisis were felt primarily as falls in wages rather than massive job losses.
Specifically, the Global Wage Report 2020/21 which showed that not all workers have been equally affected by the crisis, maintained that the impact on women had been worse than on men.
The report estimated based on a sample of 28 European countries found that, without wage subsidies, women would have lost 8.1 per cent of their wages in the second quarter of 2020, compared to 5.4 per cent for men.
Director-General of ILO, Guy Ryder, said the growth in inequality created by the COVID-19 crisis threatened a legacy of poverty and social and economic instability that would be devastating.
He harped on a human-centered recovery strategy, with adequate wage policies that would take into account the sustainability of jobs and enterprises.
He said the strategy must also address inequalities and the need to sustain demand.
According to Ryder, “If we are going to build a better future, we must also deal with some uncomfortable questions about why jobs with high social value, like carers and teachers, are very often linked to low pay.”
The report included an analysis of minimum wage systems, which played an important role in building a recovery that is sustainable and equitable.
Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report finds that, globally, 266 million people – 15 per cent of all wage earners worldwide – were earning less than the hourly minimum wage due to non-compliance or because they were legally excluded from such schemes.
The report added that women were over-represented among workers earning the minimum wage or less.
One of the authors of the report, Rosalia Vazquez-Alvarez said: “Adequate minimum wages can protect workers against low pay and reduce inequality, but ensuring that minimum wage policies are effective requires a comprehensive and inclusive package of measures.
“It means better compliance, extending coverage to more workers, and setting minimum wages at an adequate, up-to-date level that allows people to build a better life for themselves and their families. In developing and emerging countries, better compliance will require moving people away from informal work and into the formal sector”.