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AIDS to Hit African Work Force Hard, ILO Says


GENEVA (Reuters) - The loss of African workers to the AIDS epidemic is set to be far worse than predicted even six months ago, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said on Friday.

Already the leading cause of death in Africa, AIDS will cause declines of 25 to 35 percent in the workforces of several countries in the next two decades, the United Nations labor agency said.

"Africa today is losing its prime labor force to HIV/AIDS," ILO said in a study issued on World AIDS Day, "HIV/AIDS in Africa: The impact on the world of work."

Five countries are projected to lose a quarter to a third of their workers by 2020: Botswana (-30.8 pct), Mozambique (-24.9), Namibia (-35.1 pct), South Africa (-24.9) and Zimbabwe (-29.4).

Kenya (-20.2 pct), Malawi (-16 pct), Uganda (-15.8 pct), Tanzania (-14.6 pct), Central African Republic (-14.4 pct) and Ivory Coast (-12.8 pct) follow, ILO said.

The ILO study of the 29 most AIDS-stricken African countries showed "significantly sharper declines" in their workforces due to AIDS than its study last June which projected declines of 3 to 20 percent in 12 African countries.

Migrant workers in agriculture, construction and tourism, as well as miners, transport workers, security personnel, teachers and health care workers were at special risk from HIV and AIDS.

"The concern is not only with the size of the labor force but also its quality," ILO said.

"Many of those infected are experienced and skilled workers in both blue-collar and white-collar jobs. The loss of these workers, together with the entry into the labor market of orphaned children who have to support themselves, is likely to lower both the average age of many workforces and their average level of skills and experience."

By 2020, the population of the 29 countries will be about nine per cent smaller than without AIDS, but the workforce will be more than 12 percent smaller, according to ILO.

There are 25.3 million Africans living with HIV or AIDS out of 36.1 million cases worldwide, according to a UNAIDS report issued this week. More than 15 million Africans have died of AIDS-related diseases out of 20 million global deaths to date.


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Information in this article was accurate in December 1, 2000. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.