UN labor agency: Growing rich-poor gap amid COVID pandemic

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GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. labor agency warned Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic has led to a massive drop in income for workers around the world and of rising inequality between rich countries that have injected government cash into their economies and poorer countries that can’t.

In a report about the effects of the pandemic on the world of work, the International Labor Organization estimated that global labor income plunged by $3.5 trillion in the first nine months of 2020, a near-11% drop from a year ago — though that excludes income support provided by some governments. Lower-income countries and those in the Americas were particularly hit.

The ILO said the fiscal stimulus packages have been concentrated in richer countries, and that developing countries have “limited capacity to finance such measures.” It added that developing countries would need nearly $1 trillion in stimulus just to maintain the pre-pandemic gap with richer countries.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder called signs of such a fiscal stimulus gap an “extremely worrying observation” and “the polar opposite of the better world that we want to build back” once the pandemic eases.

He warned of higher unemployment, poverty and inequality, as well as increased “social frustration and political anger” after the outbreak and suggested wealthier nations and international institutions could help ease the impact for developing countries by acting now.

Ryder said a “relatively small effort” by rich nations could make an “extraordinary difference in countries that are least able to mobilize resources.”

He lamented as “distressing” how a new call for global unity in the face of the pandemic by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was met by a relative “lack of it” among countries at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

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