THE International Labor Organization (ILO) said over 81 million jobs were lost in the Asia-Pacific region as countries struggled to maintain employment levels during the pandemic.

The ILO said Wednesday in its report, Asia–Pacific Employment and Social Outlook 2020: Navigating the crisis towards a human-centred future of work that the unemployment rate in the region could rise to 5.2-5.7% in 2020 from 4.4% in 2019.

“Using available Labor Force Survey data and additional input data in a nowcasting model, the report estimates a resulting jobs gap in 2020 at the regional level of 81 million as a result of the crisis,” the ILO said.

The working hours lost metric — an indicator of workers who idled or relegated to part-time employment — also remained weak this year, falling 15.2% in the second quarter and 10.7% in the third quarter.

The ILO said the hours lost in the second quarter was equivalent to 265 million full-time jobs.

Income also deteriorated in the region, the ILO said, noting: “With fewer paid hours of work, median incomes are falling. Overall, labor income is estimated to have fallen by as much as 10% in the Asia–Pacific region in the first three quarters of 2020, equivalent to a 3% loss in gross domestic product.”

ILO Assistant Director General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Chihoko Asada Miyakawa said in a statement that the region continued to struggle in terms of addressing the immediate needs of workers.

“COVID-19 has inflicted a hammer-blow on the region’s labor markets, one that few governments in the region stood ready to handle. Low levels of social security coverage and limited institutional capacity in many countries have made it difficult to help enterprises and workers back on their feet, a situation compounded when large numbers remain in the informal economy,” she said.

In a phone interview with BusinessWorld on Wednesday, Employers Confederation of the Philippines President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. said the ILO’s findings also reflected Philippine conditions. However, he added that things are “looking up” now that the economy is gradually reopening.

BusinessWorld asked labor unions for comment but they had yet to reply at deadline time. — Gillian M. Cortez