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“An uneven recovery:” World Bank, United Nations Development Program cite holes in new report

Posted: Thursday, December 2, 2021. 2:54 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: A series of telephone surveys by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) show holes in the regional recovery from COVID-19 as it relates to unemployment.

Regionally, employment stood at 62 percent, 11 points below the pre-pandemic level. The surveys covered 24 countries in the region, providing the pulse of the region and measure the impacts of the pandemic in key areas such as the labor market, income and food security, gender equality, and household access to basic services, such as education, health (including the COVID-19 vaccine), Internet connectivity and digital finance.

Women, particularly those who are mothers to very young children, have been greatly affected, being twice as likely as men to be unemployed owing to the pandemic while facing greater household responsibilities, including supervision of children in remote education, and a higher incidence of mental health problems.

A fall in formal employment (5.3 percent) was matched by a rise in self-employment (5.7 percent) and employment in small business of four workers or less rose 8 percent. There was a decrease in weekly hours of paid work, from 43 to 37.

The pandemic is held responsible for the loss of 28 percent of jobs regionally, while 17 percent employed before the pandemic have left the labour force altogether, including 40 percent of female workers over 18 with children aged 0 to 5 years, compared to 39 percent of women in general and 18 percent of men.

The pandemic had a greater impact on less educated workers (both men and women). Thirty-five percent of those with a primary education or less lost their job during the pandemic, as did 28 percent of employees with a secondary education. Approximately 19 percent of individuals with a tertiary education became unemployed. While nearly two in five survey respondents had received emergency cash transfers, just over half of the households in the region have not yet managed to recover their pre-pandemic income levels.

Access to health services improved significantly. However, the percentage of unvaccinated people remains high in some countries. Eight percent of the regional population has not been vaccinated or is not willing to receive a vaccine. This percentage is especially high in the Caribbean: 60 percent in Haiti, 49 percent in Jamaica and 43 percent in Saint Lucia and Dominica.

The survey recorded greater levels of food insecurity (nearly 24 percent); a discrepancy in the levels of education coverage and a low rate of face-to-face learning; and a rise in the use of mobile banking and online transactions (e-commerce) as well as digital payments.


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