Global Unemployment to Remain High in 2018: ILO

A woman speaks on the phone as she walks to work in Singapore. Photo: ILO/Giorgio Taraschi
A woman speaks on the phone as she walks to work in Singapore. Photo: ILO/Giorgio Taraschi

As the global economy recovers but with a growing labour force, unemployment in 2018 is projected to remain at a similar level to last year’s, says a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

According to the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2018, the global unemployment rate has been stabilizing after a rise in 2016. It is expected to have reached 5.6 per cent in 2017, with the total number of unemployed exceeding 192 million persons.

As the long-term global economic outlook remains modest despite stronger than expected growth in 2017, the report attributes the positive trend between 2017 and 2018 mainly to the strong performance of labour markets in developed countries, where the unemployment rate is projected to fall by an additional 0.2 percentage points in 2018 to reach 5.5 per cent, a rate below pre-crisis levels.

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In contrast, employment growth is expected to fall short of labour force growth in emerging and developing countries, but has nevertheless improved compared to 2016.

“Even though global unemployment has stabilized, decent work deficits remain widespread: the global economy is still not creating enough jobs. Additional efforts need to be put in place to improve the quality of work for jobholders and to ensure that the gains of growth are shared equitably,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said.

The report highlights the fact that the significant progress achieved in the past in reducing vulnerable employment has essentially stalled since 2012.

This means that almost 1.4 billion workers are estimated to be in vulnerable employment in 2017, and that an additional 35 million are expected to join them by 2019. In developing countries, vulnerable employment affects three out of four workers.

On a more positive note, the report notes that working poverty continues to fall in emerging countries, where the number of people in extreme working poverty is expected to reach 176 million in 2018, or 7.2 per cent of all employed people.

The authors also highlight the fact that participation rates among women remain well below those for their male counterparts. Women are also more likely to face inferior quality of jobs and lower salaries.

The report also looks at the influence of population ageing. It shows that the growth of the global workforce will not be sufficient to compensate for the rapidly expanding pool of retirees. The average age of working people is projected to rise from just under 40 in 2017 to over 41 in 2030.

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