GENEVA (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to wipe out 6.7% of working hours globally in the second quarter of this year, equivalent to the labour of 195 million full-time workers, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Tuesday.

More than four out of five people in the global workforce live in places hit by full or partial workplace closures, it said in a report on the “worsening crisis with devastating effects” on the world of work.

It urged countries to take steps to keep people connected to jobs they are no longer able to do, so that fewer of them will end up unemployed.

“We clearly need and we are seeing it around world on an individualised national basis, efforts to stimulate economic activity through expansive fiscal and accommodating monetary policies – this is absolute essential,” ILO director-general Guy Ryder told a news conference.

He listed initiatives such as partial unemployment, technical unemployment and short working time measures that keep workers tied to their jobs.

“I think we have seen in a number of countries very appropriate reactions which enable companies to benefit from public support but at the same time take their responsibilities in retaining their employees and keeping them connected to the company involved and to the labour market,” Ryder said.

The Asia-Pacific region accounts for 125 million of the overall decline of 195 million in full-time job equivalents in the second quarter, although Chinese companies are getting back to work after a long lockdown to halt the virus spread, the report said.

The U.N. agency gave no precise projection for the number of people to be made jobless by the crisis, though it said it would be “significantly higher” than the 25 million it forecast just last month. At the start of this year, 190 million workers were unemployed around the world.

The four sectors hardest-hit worldwide are accommodation and food services, manufacturing, retail, and business services and administrative activities, the report said.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay

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