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Africa Unemployment Up Slightly In 2004, Says ILO

The International Labor Organization says despite “robust economic growth,” the global employment situation improved only slightly in 2004.

The ILO has released its annual report, which says worldwide unemployment declined from 6.3 to 6.1 percent. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, unemployment actually increased slightly from 10 to 10.1 percent, despite an economic growth rate of 4.4 percent on the continent.

Marva Corley is with the ILO in Geneva. She spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the findings in the annual report. She says, “Growth in 2004 was actually five percent and this is the highest growth that we’ve seen in almost 30 years. And there were some positive changes in the employment indicators. For the first time in five years, there was a drop in the global unemployment rate.” Nevertheless, worldwide employment growth was just 1.7 percent in 2004.

As for sub-Saharan Africa, why did unemployment rise slightly? She says, “One of the reasons for this is that growth was concentrated in some of the sectors where labor is not actually intensive. For example in the oil sector and some of the commodity prices actually increased and this contributed to economic growth. But it didn’t really have a noticeable impact on employment growth.”

When asked if the ILO sees that as a trend, Ms. Corley responded, “Well, I wouldn’t say that’s a trend. I would say what the problem is is economic policies don’t actually focus on parts of the economy where labor is actually employed. And I think this is one of the main messages that we try to put forward in this report. That in order to create decent and productive employment opportunities you need to focus on the sectors of the economy where labor where labor is actually employed. In the developing economies, such as sub-Saharan Africa, you really need to focus on increasing productivity in agricultural sector, increasing employment in that sector, increasing employment in the informal economy. People work. That’s not the problem.”

She says the problem is people are living on less than two dollars a day.