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Global Economy Risks Jobless Recovery

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - A case worker offers advice to job seekers at a San Francisco employment center.

FILE - A case worker offers advice to job seekers at a San Francisco employment center.

A new report finds global unemployment rates are continuing to rise, despite modest growth in the world economy. The International Labor Organization’s just-issued 2014 Global Employment Trends report says young people are particularly disadvantaged, with youth unemployment double the overall global unemployment rate.

By any measure, this is a dispiriting account of the global labor market. The report says the weak global economic recovery is failing to improve the worldwide job situation. The International Labor Organization says in 2013, nearly 202 million people were unemployed around the world. This represents an increase of almost five million on the previous year.

World Unemployment, 2003 - 2018

World Unemployment, 2003 - 2018

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder says worse is to come. He says current trends indicate the number of unemployed will increase in coming years and is expected to reach 215 million by 2018.

He says that even before the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, unemployment was very high. But, since then, he says, more than 60 million additional people have been negatively affected.

“That is to say that since the crisis, we see an additional 32 million unemployed added, to which we must have another 30 million of people who are discouraged, who have left the labor market. So, we are 62 million jobs down. And, at current rates of growth, we are simply not able to produce any improvement in these figures. Indeed, they are going to get worse," said Ryder.

The report finds young people are particular victims of unemployment and more effort must be made to integrate them into the labor force. It says some 74.5 million men and women under the age of 25 are without jobs. It says global youth unemployment is more than 13 percent, compared to the overall worldwide rate of six percent.

Ryder says the quality of employment also is of concern. He explains the world has made significant progress in reducing the numbers of working poor over a decade. But he notes the rate of improvement stalled in 2013.

“We are seeing that the war on poverty has slowed down, or progress in the war on poverty, I should say, has slowed down in the wake of the crisis. Around 375 million workers still get $1.25 a day or less to live on - 839 million are living with their families on less than $2," he said.

In regional terms, the report finds nearly half of all job seekers are located Southeast Asia, followed by sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. By contrast, the report says Latin America was little affected by the global loss of jobs in 2013.

The ILO says in the developed economies and the European Union, labor market conditions showed no signs of improvement last year. It says the Middle East and North Africa region has the highest unemployment rate in the world. It says paid employment opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa are scarce.

The ILO argues the continuing jobs’ crisis requires a more focused, effective response nationally and internationally. It says there is a clear linkage between the unacceptable levels of unemployment in the world and growing inequality. It adds this must be addressed by putting employment firmly at the center of policy making.
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