India Could Face Productivity Loss Due To Global Warming: UN

By: Siya Bhatia

India is projected to lose 5.8 percent of working hours in 2030, a productivity loss equivalent to 34 million full-time jobs, due to global warming, particularly impacting agriculture and construction sectors, a report by the UN labour agency said. 

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The UN warned as climate change worsens, growing heat stress on workers in agriculture and other sectors will cause a productivity loss equal to 80 million full-time jobs over the next decade.

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“Excess heat during work is an occupational health risk. It can restrict a worker’s physical capabilities, capacity and thus productivity. At very high temperatures, workers also risk suffering heatstroke, which can be deadly.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) released its report ‘Working on a Warmer Planet – The Impact of Heat Stress on Labour Productivity and Decent Work’ which said that by 2030, the equivalent of more than two per cent of total working hours worldwide is projected to be lost every year, either because it is too hot to work or because workers have to work at a slower pace.

Source: Montree Hanlue/Shutterstock.com.

The percentage is expected to be more than double that in the hardest-hit regions, western Africa and southern Asia. 

It said that the accumulated global financial loss due to heat stress is expected to reach USD 2,400 billion by 2030. “If nothing is done now to mitigate climate change, these costs will be much higher as global temperatures increase even further towards the end of the century,” the report said. 

As many as 90%% of all workers in India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Nepal work informally. Although the prevalence of informality can to a great extent be explained by the high share of employment in agriculture, informality is also pervasive in other sectors, including construction, wholesale and retail trade, and the accommodation and food service industries.

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“Temperatures exceeding 39°C can kill. But even where there are no fatalities, such temperatures can leave many people unable to work or able to work only at a reduced rate. Some groups of workers are more vulnerable than others because they suffer the effects of heat stress at lower temperatures,” the report said.

“The economic losses of heat stress will therefore reinforce already existing economic disadvantage,” ILO warned.

The UN agency called for greater efforts to “design, finance and implement national policies to address heat stress risks and protect workers.”

Siya Bhatia

Siya Bhatia

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