News / Africa

ILO: World Needs 600 Million Jobs Within 10 Years

Joe DeCapua

The International Labor Organization says the world faces an urgent challenge of creating 600 million productive jobs over the next decade. It says those jobs are needed to generate sustainable growth after three years of continuous crisis conditions in global labor markets.


The International Labor Organization says the year begins with the world facing a “serious job challenge and widespread decent work deficits.” It’s released its annual report – Global Employment Trends 2012: Preventing a Deeper Jobs Crisis.

The ILO said there is a backlog of global employment of 200 million. At the same time, the report says 400 million new jobs will be needed over 10 years to avoid another rise in unemployment.

“2011 in terms of employment was not a very good year. We still have not recovered from the big economic and financial crisis in terms of job creation. While at the same time all the new crises we’ve seen in 2011 further put pressure on labor markets. So, overall we’ve seen very little improvement. And if it continues like that we won’t be back to pre-crisis levels for a long time,” said Dorothea Schmidt, an ILO senior employment specialist based in Cairo.

Young people continue to be the hardest hit with few near-term job prospects. Nearly 75 million youth, between the ages of 15 and 24, were unemployed in 2011. That’s an increase of more than 4 million since 2007.

Schmidt said, “Young people are usually the last ones to enter labor markets and they are always the first ones to exit them. This has to do with the lack of their experience. It also has to do with the lack of respect that people have for younger people because they always think they are not ready yet to do a good job.”

Also, the jobs that are available are often not in line with the training or education young people have received.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa has done much better than many other regions during the global recession. But Schmidt says despite that, the economic growth has not translated into more decent jobs.

“If we see job growth in many of the economies in sub-Saharan Africa, it only happens in the informal sector. And this is exactly the sector that does not create decent jobs,” she said.

Schmidt said the majority of people in sub-Saharan Africa still work in agriculture. Many are actually unpaid family members. The region has a very high rate of working poor.

“You have a job, but still you live with your family with less than one dollar per person per day. And that is really extreme poverty. And this is really the case for a lot of people in that region. We talk about 38.1 percent of people working, but still living in poverty,” she said.

Arab Spring

Meanwhile, North Africa is also facing a severe shortfall of decent jobs.

“Even before the Arab Spring,” Schmidt said, “there were a lot of challenges regarding labor markets. And now the Arab Spring has put a lot of pressure on economies. We see a very, very slow recovery from the Arab Spring event in terms of economic growth in Egypt. It looks a bit better in Tunisia. But also neighboring countries suffered a lot from it and the recovery is just very, very, very slow.”

The ILO described North Africa as one of the worst places in the world for young women to find jobs. Schmidt blames this on cultural issues and a false belief about women workers.

“If women would work they would take away jobs from men. And given that young men don’t find jobs they try to stop women from entering the labor market. But as a matter of fact, this is never the case. All over the world, if women’s labor force participation rate increases it always goes hand in hand with economic growth. Because, after all, these young women, or even older women, they are producing something. They are contributing to GDP growth,” she said.

GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, is a measure of the goods and services a country produces. Schmidt said for every 100 North African women only 10 have jobs. She describes women as a huge potential for economic growth going unused.

North Africa, like sub-Saharan Africa, has a large percentage of working poor.

The International Labor Organization annual report said job growth is dependent in large part on recovery from the global recession. Nevertheless, it says there are many things that can be done on the national level to help create highly productive jobs.

For example, providing education and training in line with the job market; creating job centers where employers have easier access to potential employees; and helping entrepreneurs start their own businesses. The ILO also said much more can and should be done in the manufacturing sector to create jobs.

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