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COVID-19 pushed over 100 million more workers into poverty, says UN

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FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015 file photo, homeless children eat as others wait in line for their turn outside the main railway station in Bucharest, Romania.
FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015 file photo, homeless children eat as others wait in line for their turn outside the main railway station in Bucharest, Romania.   -   Copyright  Vadim Ghirda/AP
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COVID-19 has pushed over 100 million more workers into poverty worldwide, the UN labour agency said in a new report released on Wednesday.

"Relative to 2019, an estimated additional 108 million workers are now extremely or moderately poor, meaning that they and their family members are having to live on less than US$3.20 (€2.62) per day in purchasing power parity terms," the report by the International Labour Organisation read.

The sharp increase in poverty rates is due to lost working hours as economies went into lockdown, outright job losses, and a decline in access to good quality jobs.

"Five years of progress towards the eradication of working poverty have been undone, as working poverty rates have now reverted to those of 2015," the agency added.

Exacerbated inequalities

The report noted that the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in the labour market, with lower-skilled workers, women, young people or migrants among the most affected.

"Women have suffered disproportionate job losses while seeing their unpaid working time increase," ILO said, noting that "the burden of intensified childcare and homeschooling activities has disproportionately fallen on them."

As a result, women’s employment dropped by 5% last year compared with 3.9% for men.

'Scarring effects'

Workers around the world are likely to feel the impacts of the crisis long into the future.

"Looking ahead, the projected employment growth will be insufficient to close the gaps opened up by the crisis," ILO said, warning of the pandemic's longer-term “scarring” effects on workers and enterprises.

The agency said "concerted policy efforts" were needed to prevent long-lasting damage.

It recommended among other things ensuring "worldwide access to vaccines and financial assistance for developing countries – including through debt restructuring," or "enhancing social protection systems."