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Does Anyone Remember … Jobs? By James Reed
How bad is this corona freak-out going to get? Plenty worse, so bad that people who live in the post-apocalyptic ruins of the future, will be amazed to hear that there were such things as “jobs,” an “economy,” as they sift through the ruins of a world that they believe were built by gods, gods who failed;
“Some 1.6 billion people employed in the informal economy – or nearly half the global workforce - could see their livelihoods destroyed due to the continued decline in working hours brought on by lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Wednesday. Meanwhile, more than 430 million enterprises in hard-hit sectors such as retail and manufacturing risk “serious disruption”, the UN agency added. ILO Director General Guy Ryder said as the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the world’s most vulnerable workers becomes even more urgent. “For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. Millions of businesses around the world are barely breathing. They have no savings or access to credit”, he said. “These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don’t help them now, they will simply perish.”
Drop in income
The findings appear in the ILO Monitor third edition: COVID-19 and the world of work, released on Wednesday. Globally, there are some 3.3 billion workers. Two billion have jobs in the informal economy, representing the most vulnerable workers in the labour market. The agency said 1.6 billion in the informal economy “have suffered massive damage to their capacity to earn a living” as a result of the economic meltdown created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to lockdowns, or because they work in hard-hit sectors, these workers globally have seen a 60 per cent drop in income during the first month of the crisis, according to ILO estimates. This translates into a more than 80 per cent decline in Africa and the Americas, 70 per cent in Europe and Central Asia, and 21.6 per cent in Asia and the Pacific.
Working hours decline
The UN agency estimated that compared to pre-crisis levels, there will be a 10.5 per cent deterioration in working hours during this second quarter (Q2) of the year, equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs. Previous projections had put the figure at 6.7 per cent, or 195 million full-time workers. The situation has worsened for all major regions, again compared to pre-crisis levels. Q2 estimates suggest a 12.4 per cent loss of working hours in the Americas, and 11.8 per cent for Europe and Central Asia. All other regions are above 9.5 per cent.
Enterprises at ‘high’ risk
The ILO added that the proportion of workers living in countries where workplace closures have been recommended, or required, has decreased from 81 per cent to 68 per cent over the past two weeks. While this is largely due to changes in China, measures have been stepped up elsewhere. At the same time, 436 million enterprises operating in wholesale and retail, manufacturing, accommodation, and other economic sectors that have been hardest hit, face “high risks of serious disruption”.
In other words, the global economy has been gutted. And, did the lockdowns really work? To find out, let’s consider a reliable source, such as the Wall Street Journal, a fountain of wisdom:
“Do quick shutdowns work to fight the spread of Covid-19? Joe Malchow, Yinon Weiss and I wanted to find out. We set out to quantify how many deaths were caused by delayed shutdown orders on a state-by-state basis. To normalize for an unambiguous comparison of deaths between states at the midpoint of an epidemic, we counted deaths per million population for a fixed 21-day period, measured from when the death rate first hit 1 per million—e.g.,‒three deaths in Iowa or 19 in New York state. A state’s “days to shutdown” was the time after a state crossed the 1 per million threshold until it ordered businesses shut down. We ran a simple one-variable correlation of deaths per million and days to shutdown, which ranged from minus-10 days (some states shut down before any sign of Covid-19) to 35 days for South Dakota, one of seven states with limited or no shutdown. The correlation coefficient was 5.5%—so low that the engineers I used to employ would have summarized it as “no correlation” and moved on to find the real cause of the problem. (The trendline sloped downward—states that delayed more tended to have lower death rates—but that’s also a meaningless result due to the low correlation coefficient.) No conclusions can be drawn about the states that sheltered quickly, because their death rates ran the full gamut, from 20 per million in Oregon to 360 in New York. This wide variation means that other variables—like population density or subway use—were more important. Our correlation coefficient for per-capita death rates vs. the population density was 44%. That suggests New York City might have benefited from its shutdown—but blindly copying New York’s policies in places with low Covid-19 death rates, such as my native Wisconsin, doesn’t make sense.”
That puts it mildly. At present people like me are explaining the lockdown on the basis of a push for the Newer New World Order. But, if we are wrong about this, then the only explanation left is that for a time, most of the world went stark raving mad. That is unnerving too. Maddening, in fact.