Are you sure?

Unemployment reached highest level on record

The number of jobless worldwide reached nearly 212 million in 2009 following an unprecedented increase of 34 million compared to 2007, on the eve of the global crisis, the International Labour Office (ILO) said in its annual Global Employment Trends report.

Based on IMF economic forecasts, the ILO estimates that global unemployment is likely to remain high through 2010. In the Developed Economies and European Union unemployment is projected to increase by an additional 3 million people in 2010, while it will stabilize at present levels, or decline only slightly, in other regions.

The ILO also said the number of unemployed youth worldwide increased by 10.2 million in 2009 compared to 2007, the largest hike since 1991.

At the same time, the ILO report shows wide variations in the employment impact of the crisis between regions and countries as well as in labour market recovery prospects.

The report says that coordinated stimulus measures have averted a far greater social and economic catastrophe; yet millions of women and men around the world are still without a job, unemployment benefits or any viable form of social protection.

“As the World Economic Forum gathers at Davos, it is clear that avoiding a jobless recovery is the political priority of today” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. “We need the same policy decisiveness that saved banks now applied to save and create jobs and livelihoods of people. This can be done through strong convergence of public policies and private investment”.

Somavia added: “Each year, the global labour market has expanded by 45 million people therefore recovery measures must target job creation for young men and women entering the labour market for the first time.”

According to the ILO, the share of workers in vulnerable employment (Note 1) worldwide is estimated to reach over 1.5 billion, equivalent to over half (50.6 per cent) of the world’s labour force. The number of women and men in vulnerable employment is estimated to have increased in 2009, by as much as 110 million compared to 2008.

The report also says that 633 million workers and their families were living on less than USD 1.25 per day in 2008, with as many as 215 million additional workers living on the margin and at risk of falling into poverty in 2009.

The ILO report says that it is urgent to establish wide coverage of basic social protection schemes to cushion the poor against the devastating effects of sharp fluctuations in economic activity.

Other key findings:

The global unemployment rate rose to 6.6 percent in 2009, an increase of 0.9 percentage points over 2007. However it varied widely by region, ranging from 4.4 per cent in East Asia to more than 10 per cent in Central and South-Eastern Europe (non-EU) and Commonwealth of Independent States (CSEE & CIS) as well as in North Africa.The global youth unemployment rate rose by 1.6 percentage points to reach 13.4 per cent in 2009 relative to 2007. This represents the largest increase since at least 1991, the earliest year for which global estimates are available.The overall impact of the economic crisis on women and men is far more important than the differences in impact between these groups.Preliminary estimates of growth in labour productivity, measured as output per worker, indicate that productivity levels fell in all regions except East Asia, South Asia and North Africa. The largest decline in output per worker occurred in Central and South-Eastern Europe (non- EU) & CIS, - 4.7 per cent, thus reversing part of the gains that were made in the first half of the decade. As a result of declining output per worker, working conditions are deteriorating especially in regions where labour productivity was already low preceding the economic crisis, such as in Sub-Saharan Africa.

To address these issues, the ILO constituents which represent the “real economy” have agreed a Global Jobs Pact that contains a balanced set of tried and tested measures to promote a robust response to the employment challenge by focusing on accelerated employment generation, sustainable social protection systems, respect for labour standards, and strengthening social dialogue. The Pact has received strong backing from the G20 heads of state and from the UN General Assembly. Rethinking policies is essential because we will not get out of the crisis by applying the same policies that lead to the crisis in the first place.