Women and lower-paid workers have disproportionately borne the brunt of the decrease in wages due to the COVID-19 crisis as their working hours were reduced, according to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Global Wage Report 2020-2021.
The report, released on Wednesday, said global wage growth fluctuated between 1.6% and 2.2% in the four years preceding the pandemic, that is 2016 to 2019.
“In the first half of 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, a downward pressure on the level or growth rate of average wages was observed in two thirds of the countries for which recent data are available; in other countries average wages increased, largely artificially as a reflection of the substantial job losses among lower-paid workers,” the report said.
The ILO report said the impact of the crisis had been different for women and men. The report estimated that women workers in a selection of European countries would have faced an 8.1% reduction in wages between the first and second quarters of 2020, as opposed to 5.4% for men without payment of wage subsidies.
“Such a discrepancy was mainly caused by reduced working hours, more than by the difference in the number of lay-offs. The wage bill lost as a result of the drop in working hours was 6.9 per cent for women compared to 4.7 per cent for men,” the report stated.
Lower-paid workers have also been disproportionately hit by the crisis, leading to an increase in inequality, it said.
“Studies have shown that in many countries, reductions in hours worked have impacted lower-skilled occupations – in particular those in elementary work – more than higher-paying managerial and professional jobs,” the report said.
The lowest-paid 50% of workers would have lost 17.3% of wages without wage subsidies, in comparison to 6.5% of all workers in selected European countries, it said.