By 2030, India is expected to lose an equivalent of 34 million jobs as a result of global warming, says a report released by the International Labour Organisation. The report, ‘Working on a warmer planet: The impact of heat stress on labour productivity and decent work’ anticipates an increase in “heat stress” resulting from global warming. It projects global productivity losses equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs in 2030, and the projection of 34 million jobs would make India the worst affected.
How it was worked out
The report defines heat stress as heat in excess of what the body can tolerate without suffering physiological impairment. It generally occurs at temperatures above 35°C, in high humidity. Excess heat during work is an occupational health risk and restricts workers’ physical functions and capabilities, work capacity and thus, productivity.
The report makes its projections based on a global temperature rise of 1.5°C by the end of the century, and also on labour force trends. These projections “suggest that in 2030, 2.2 per cent of total working hours worldwide will be lost because of higher temperatures, a loss equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs. This is equivalent to global economic losses of US$2,400 billion,” says the report.
The ILO says this is a conservative estimate, assuming that the global mean temperature does not rise more than 1.5°C.
The India projection
The region projected to lose the most working hours is southern Asia, at 5% in 2030, corresponding to around 43 million jobs, respectively. A third of the southern Asian countries have already incurred losses greater than 4%, it said.
India, which lost 4.3% of working hours in 1995 because of heat stress, is projected to lose 5.8% of its working hours in 2030, which corresponds to 34 million jobs.
The report projects losses in working hours as 9.04% in agriculture (in shade), 5.29% in manufacturing, 9.04% in construction, and 1.48% in services. “Although most of the impact in India will be felt in the agricultural sector, more and more working hours are expected to be lost in the construction sector, where heat stress affects both male and female workers,” the report says.
Director, Centre for Sustainable Employment at the Azim Premji University, Amit Basole said while there is little data in the country to corroborate trends of climate change and employment, the effects can already be seen. “There are two aspects which have affected and is transforming the agriculture sector in particular, over the past few years. First is that of heat. But the more noticeable one is that of water depletion. Most areas have drought like conditions so what we have found is migration of agricultural workers to urban areas — usually to work in the construction sector,” he said.
He added, however, that there has been no direct job loss at present, with distressed workers switching from one vulnerable sector to another.
The big picture
Globally, the two sectors projected to be hit worst are agriculture and construction, with agriculture worse affected. The ILO says 940 million people around the world work in the agricultural sector, which is projected to account for 60% of working hours lost due to heat stress by 2030. In construction, an estimated 19% of global working hours is likely to be lost.
Catherine Saget, Chief of Unit in the ILO’s research department and one of the main authors of the report, wrote: “In addition to the massive economic costs of heat stress, we can expect to see more inequality between low and high income countries and worsening working conditions for the most vulnerable, as well as displacement of people. To adapt to this new reality appropriate measures by governments, employers and workers, focusing on protecting the most vulnerable, are urgently needed.”
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