• The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown caused 114 million people to lose their jobs over 2020.
  • The ILO estimates working hours lost in 2020 were equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs, leading to $3.7 trillion in lost labor income.
  • Although millions have returned to work, the ILO does not expect global working hours to return to pre-COVID levels in 2021.

With tens of millions of people losing their jobs or seeing their working hours reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing crisis has disrupted labor markets around the world at an unprecedented scale.

According to the latest edition of the ILO Monitor, 114 million jobs were lost in 2020, which, in combination with working-hour reductions within employment, resulted in working-hour losses approximately four times as high as during the financial crisis in 2009. The International Labour Organization estimates that the working hours lost in 2020 (compared to pre-pandemic levels) were equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs, leading to $3.7 trillion in lost labor income. That’s even higher than the worst-case estimate made in spring 2020, when the ILO had predicted lost labor income between $860 billion and $3.44 trillion for the entire year.

As the following chart shows, the disruptions to the labor market were most pronounced in the second quarter of 2020, when widespread lockdowns led to working-hour losses equivalent to 525 million jobs. By the end of 2020, as millions had returned to work or switched to working from home, the situation had improved significantly. However, the ILO does not expect global working hours to return to pre-Covid levels in 2021.

COVID causes staggering loss of working hours
The 2nd half of 2020 was significantly better in terms of working hours lost compared to the first half.
Image: Statista