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Ukraine: UN labour agency update shows 4.8 million jobs lost to war

The impact of the Ukraine crisis on the world of work: Initial assessments estimates that escalating hostilities would further affect the economy, causing employment losses to soar to seven million.

However, if the fighting were to cease immediately, the International Labour Organization (ILO) study says that a rapid recovery could return 3.4 million jobs and reduce employment losses to 8.9 per cent.

Financially supporting refugees

Of the more than 5.23 million mostly women and children who have fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries, approximately 2.75 million are of working age – 43.5 per cent, or 1.2 million, of whom had previously held jobs.

In response to the disruption, Ukraine has made considerable efforts to keep the national social protection system operational by guaranteeing payment benefits, including to internally displaced persons, through digital technologies.

Rippling effects

The Ukraine crisis also threatens labour disruptions in neighbouring States – mainly Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia – as continued hostilities threaten to force the refugees into longer exiles, further pressuring labour markets and social protection systems, and increasing unemployment.

The economic and employment disturbances are having significant ripple effects on Central Asia, especially countries depending on remittances from Russia, such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

These States are among the top ten countries of origin for migrants in Russia, many of whom send significant shares of remittances back to their home nations.

If hostilities and sanctions against Russia lead to job losses for migrant workers, they may return back to their countries, severely triggering economic losses throughout Central Asia as a whole.

Global impact

Russia’s aggression also creates a shock to the global economy, further complicating the COVID recovery, as it is likely to affect employment and wage growth while putting additional pressure on social protection systems.

And in many high-income countries that are showing signs of labour market recovery, the fallout from the Ukraine crisis may worsen labour conditions and reverse some of their gains.

The situation is particularly hard in low- and middle-income countries, many of which have been unable to fully recover from the COVID crisis.

Men work on the construction site of a grain processing factory in Kyiv Oblast of central Ukraine. (file)

© FAO/Genya Savilov
Men work on the construction site of a grain processing factory in Kyiv Oblast of central Ukraine. (file)

Taking action

In March, ILO passed a resolution calling on Russia to “immediately and unconditionally cease its aggression” against Ukraine, expressing its grave concern over the severe impact it has on workers and employers who risked their lives to continue working.

To mitigate the impact of the crisis on the Ukrainian labour market, ILO recommended measures to provide targeted employment support in the comparatively safe areas of Ukraine, including by building on the Government-sponsored programme to relocate workers and enterprises.

It also advocated for employers’ and workers’ organizations to play a role in providing humanitarian support and ensuring the continuation of work, where possible.

Food repercussions

Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) brought European and Central Asian countries together to find solutions to the war’s impact on global agrifood systems. 

The Europe and Central Asia region includes 53 high- and middle-income countries that are home to more than 900 million people.  

Although FAO believes that the region is in a “good position” as one of the world’s food baskets, hunger levels are rising, along with prices for food, feed, fuel and fertilizer

As the UN agency closely monitors the global implications of the Ukraine war, it has launched a rapid response plan “to provide life and livelihood-saving” support to farmers inside the war-torn country, where one in five households cannot meet their basic food needs.  

To date, funding has been insufficient to support the agency’s $115 million plan to reach almost one million individuals. 

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