The coronavirus crisis may push 40 crore Indians working in the informal sector further into poverty, a report by the United Nations said on Tuesday. The International Labour Organization said the pandemic is likely to wipe out 19.5 crore full time jobs or 6.7% of working hours globally in the second half of the year.

In its report, titled “ILO Monitor 2nd edition: COVID-19 and the world of work”, the International Labour Organisation said that the pandemic is the worst global crisis since World War II.

“Workers and businesses are facing catastrophe, in both developed and developing economies,” International Labour Organization Director-General Guy Ryder said. “We have to move fast, decisively, and together. The right, urgent, measures could make the difference between survival and collapse.”

The labour organisation said that the lockdown in India, which is scheduled to end on April 14, is extremely stringent. It said that nearly 90% of India’s labour works in the informal sector, and many workers have been forced to return to their homes in rural areas due to closure of shops and businesses.

Late last month, tens of thousands of migrant workers working in different Indian cities began a long and arduous journey home to their villages. However, the Centre, fearing a spread of the pandemic, ordered state borders to be sealed and decided to shelter and feed the working class in its place of work itself.

“This is the greatest test for international cooperation in more than 75 years,” Ryder said. “If one country fails, then we all fail. We must find solutions that help all segments of our global society, particularly those that are most vulnerable or least able to help themselves.”

The report said that workers in low and middle-income countries not only generally work in the informal sector, but also have limited access to health services and social protection. The International Labour Organization warned that unless governments take appropriate policy steps, workers will fall into greater poverty and will find it challenging to regain their livelihoods after the lockdowns are lifted.

“The ILO estimates that 1.25 billion workers, representing almost 38% of the workforce, are employed in sectors that are now facing a severe decline in output and a high risk of workforce displacement,” the report added. “Key sectors include retail trade, accommodation and food services, and manufacturing.”

The International Labour Organization said that apart from protecting the livelihoods of the working class through policy measures, governments must encourage private enterprises to retain and create new jobs.

The Covid-19 pandemic has so far infected over 14,30,000 people, and killed over 82,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University. Over 3,01,000 people have recovered from the virus.