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ILO: Global Unemployment to Rise Again

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Lisa Schlein
— The International Labor Organization reports nearly 200 million people worldwide are without jobs, and it forecasts higher unemployment this year. The ILO’s “Global Employment Trends 2013” report warns the high level of youth unemployment is of particular concern.

The International Labor Organization reports the number of unemployed worldwide rose by 4.2 million in 2012 after falling for two straight years.  It says one-quarter of that increase is in the advanced economies, while three-quarters is in developing economies in East and South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The report finds a further 39 million people around the world have dropped out of the labor market and are not counted in the jobless rate.  It says the average duration of unemployment has increased significantly, with one-third of all job seekers in developed countries being unemployed for one year or longer.   

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder says future prospects are not good, as the forecast global economic recovery is not expected to be strong enough to bring down unemployment quickly.  

“We see that unemployment is set to rise again.  Our projection would be for 5.1 million more in 2013 and still a further 3 million in 2014.  So the trends are very much in the wrong direction,”Ryder said.  

The ILO predicts the number of job seekers will rise to more than 210 million over the next five years. The report says the labor market is particularly bleak for young people. It says almost 74 million people aged between 15 and 24 are unemployed around the world - an unemployment rate of 12.6 percent.

The report says more and more young people who experience long-term unemployment get discouraged and drop out of the labor market.  It says this hurts their long-term job prospects and prevents young people from gaining on-the-job experience.

Ryder says another problem relates to what he calls labor market mismatch.  He explains as new jobs become available, many require skills that job seekers do not have.  This skills mismatch, he says, is negatively affecting the prospects for labor market recovery, if and when economic growth takes hold.

“I was given rather a potent reminder of the realities of this mismatch myself in Tunisia last week, where I was told by the Tunisian authorities on the occasion of the second anniversary of the revolution there that there are as many empty posts in Tunisia, work posts for which workers cannot be found, as there are unemployed.  Nevertheless, unemployment remains at the stubbornly high levels that it does -- over 30 percent for young people,” Ryder said.  

A 26-year-old Tunisian man, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in December 2010 when police confiscated his fruit stand.  His action is generally credited with having started the Arab Spring, which has triggered ongoing riots across the Middle East and North Africa.

ILO Chief Ryder warns continued youth unemployment around the world could lead to further social instability.  He says promoting jobs for young people must be a priority.  

The report says the employment situation for young people is expected to improve slightly in developed economies over the next five years. But it says youth unemployment is expected to rise in emerging economies in Eastern Europe, in East and Southeast Asia and in the Middle East.

The ILO says some European countries have adopted schemes that guarantee employment or training for groups of young people. It says these have proven to be successful and affordable. It urges other governments to replicate these programs.

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