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ILO: World Facing Jobless Crisis

The International Labor Organization says the world is facing a jobless crisis.  In its just released Global Employment Trends report, it warns the global unemployment rate could rise to more than seven percent and result in an increase in the total number of unemployed of more than 50 million people.  

The International Labor Organization says the global economic crisis is expected to lead to a dramatic increase in the number of people joining the ranks of the unemployed.  It says job losses could increase from between 18 million and 50 million depending on how seriously the global economy deteriorates. 

ILO Chief of Employment Trends, Lawrence Johnson, tells VOA that 2007 saw a global unemployment rate of 5.7 percent, which went up to six percent in 2008.

"This means an increase of unemployment from 2007 from 180 million to over 190 million in 2008," he said. "What we believe is in the worst case scenario of 2009, this could raise to a rate of 6.3 percent and a global unemployment of 230 million." 

In terms of percentages, Johnson says the unemployment rate in the Great Depression of the 1930s was higher.  But, in terms of absolute numbers of unemployed, he notes this is the largest the ILO has seen since it began tracking jobless numbers in 1991. 

In the worst case, the ILO report says 200 million workers, mostly in developing economies, could be pushed into extreme poverty. 

ILO Employment Sector Executive Director Jose-Marie Salazar says the number of working poor, those people who live on $2 a day, may rise to 1.4 billion people.  That is 45 percent of the world employed.

"The crisis might wipe out the gains done in poverty reduction since 1997," he said. "Responses to the crisis cannot stop with fiscal stimulus and fixing the financial system because the crisis is hitting the real economy and real people.  So that in the responses, countries should also include measures to address employment and labor-market impasse." 

The ILO warns increased unemployment could lead to social and political unrest.  It recommends a number of policy measures for easing the crisis.  It says countries should increase unemployment benefits and insurance schemes, retrain redundant workers and protect pensions from devastating declines in financial markets.

It suggests increasing public investment in infrastructure and housing, and says so-called green jobs offer great potential for creating new employment.

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