Nearly one-third of job losses in five Asian countries were linked to the tourism sector, with an estimated 1.6 million jobs lost from this region alone, according to a recent ILO study.
With international borders being closed during the global lockdown, Covid-19 has left a massive impact on employment in the tourism sector. Data from Brunei Darussalam, Mongolia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam revealed job losses in tourism-related sectors in 2020 were four times greater than in non-tourism sectors.
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism sector in Asia and the Pacific has been nothing short of catastrophic. Even with countries in the region focusing heavily on vaccinations and designing strategies to slowly re-open borders, jobs and working hours in the tourism-related sector are likely to remain below their pre-crisis numbers in Asia–Pacific countries into next year,” said Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa, ILO Assistant Director General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
Even as borders re-open, international tourist arrivals are predicted to be slow in the near term. In view of this, governments in tourism-rich countries are likely to seek broader economic diversification with the ultimate aim to create new employment opportunities in non-tourism sectors.
“Recovery will take time and affected workers and enterprises in the tourism sector will continue to require assistance to replace lost incomes and preserve assets. Governments should continue to implement support measures, while striving to vaccinate all residents, migrant workers included,” said Sara Elder, ILO Senior Economist and lead author of the study.
See also: Into 2021: Travel and Tourism Industry to be Left Reeling from Covid-19
More details on how the pandemic impacts tourism in five countries are as follow:
- In the Philippines, employment losses and decreases in average working hours in 2020 were among the largest. Employment in the sector contracted by 28 percent (compared to an 8 percent loss in non tourism-related sectors) and average hours worked by 38 percent. Workers in the tourism-related sector working zero hours per week rose two thousand-fold (affecting 775,000 workers).
- In Vietnam, the dire consequences of the crisis on the tourism sector were reflected primarily in decreasing wages and increased informality. Average tourism wages fell by nearly 18 percent, with the decline for women employees even higher at almost 23 percent. While the number of informal employees in tourism increased by 3 percent in 2020, the number of formal employees decreased by 11 percent.
- The impact of the crisis on tourism employment in Thailand was more muted, yet contractions in wages and working hours were stark and jobs in the sector contracted while jobs in non-tourism related sectors experienced a slight gain. Average wages in the tourism sector decreased by 9.5 percent overall as tourism workers moved into lower-paid jobs like food and beverage serving activities. Average hours worked declined by 10 percent. In the first quarter of 2021, employment was below pre-crisis numbers in all tourism-related sub-sectors other than food and beverage serving activities.
- The tourism sector in Brunei Darussalam was hard hit in terms of both lower employment and fewer average hours worked, which contracted by more than 40 percent and nearly 21 percent respectively. It was also the country that saw the largest difference between employment losses in tourism and non-tourism related sectors.
- Likewise, in Mongolia, tourism employment and average working hours suffered considerably from the pandemic and contracted correspondingly by almost 17 percent and more than 13 percent. The impact on employment among male tourism workers was particularly sizeable, falling by around 29 percent.
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