By Tola Akinmutimi
….identifies Nigeria, other West African countries as most vulnerable
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Thursday projected that increase in heat stress resulting from global warming could lead to global equivalent of US$2,400 billion economic losses or 80 million jobs by the year 2030.
The global labour organization gave this prediction in its new report titled ‘Working on a Warmer Planet: The Impact of Heat Stress on Labour Productivity and Decent Work’.
It hinged the projections on a global temperature rise of 1.5°C by the end of this century which suggested that in 2030, 2.2 per cent of total working hours worldwide would be lost because of higher temperatures, a loss equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs.
The ILO cautioned that these figures were a conservative estimate because the report assumed that the global mean temperature rise will not exceed 1.5°C and that work in agriculture and construction – two of the sectors worst affected by heat stress – are carried out in the shade.
The report draws on climate, physiological and employment data and presented the estimates of the current and projected productivity losses at national, regional and global levels
The report clarified further: “Heat stress refers to 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; it restricts workers’ physical functions and capabilities, work capacity and thus, productivity. In extreme cases it can lead to heatstroke, which can be fatal.
“The sector expected to be worst affected, globally, is agriculture. 940 million people around the world work in the agricultural sector. It is projected to account for 60 per cent of global working hours lost due to heat stress by the year 2030. The construction sector will also be severely impacted with an estimated 19 per cent of global working hours lost by the same date. Other sectors especially at risk are environmental goods and services, refuse collection, emergency, repair work, transport, tourism, sports and some forms of industrial work”, it added.
The new report also stated that the impact of heat would be unequally distributed around the world, identifying the regions losing the most working hours as Southern Asia and Western Africa, where approximately 5 per cent of working hours are expected to be lost in 2030, corresponding to around 43 million and 9 million jobs, respectively.
Commenting on the report, Catherine Saget, chief of unit in the ILO’s research department and one of the main authors of the report said: “The impact of heat stress on labour productivity is a serious consequence of climate change… We can expect to see more inequality between low and high income countries and worsening working conditions for the most vulnerable.
“The impact of heat stress on labour productivity is a serious consequence of climate change, which adds to other adverse impacts such as changing rain patterns, raising sea levels and loss of biodiversity.
“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”, she added.
Heat stress will affect millions of women who make up the majority of workers in subsistence agriculture, as well as men who dominate the construction industry. The social consequences of heat stress may include increasing migration, as workers leave rural areas to look for better prospects.
The report calls for greater efforts to design, finance and implement national policies to address heat stress risks and protect workers.
These include adequate infrastructure and improved early warning systems for heat events, and improved implementation of international labour standards such as in the area of occupational safety and health to help design policies to tackle heat-related hazards.