Economic insecurity fosters world ‘full of anxiety and anger’ – UN report

1 September 2004

People in countries where income is protected report high levels of happiness, but about three quarters of the world’s workers live in circumstances of economic insecurity that foster ‘a world full of anxiety and anger,’ according to a new United Nations study published today.

Only 8 per cent of people - fewer than one in 10 - live in countries providing favourable economic security, according to the survey produced by the International Labour Organization (ILO). A socio-economic safety net, rather than income level, not only promotes personal well-being, happiness and tolerance but also benefits growth, development and social stability, it says.

"Unless we can make our societies more equal and the global economy more inclusive, very few will achieve economic security or decent work," ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said in connection with the study’s release in Geneva.

The report marks the first attempt to measure global economic security as perceived by ordinary people and was based on detailed household and workplace surveys covering over 48,000 workers and more than 10,000 workplaces worldwide.

Survey results paint a mixed global picture, showing that some lower-income countries achieve higher levels of economic security than certain rich nations. South and South-East Asia have a greater share of global economic security – 14 per cent – than their share of world income – 7 per cent. By contrast, Latin American States provide their citizens with less economic security.

Other key findings of the survey include:

The most important determinant of national happiness is the extent of income security, measured in terms of income protection and a low degree of income inequality.Employment security is diminishing almost everywhere, due to the informalization of economic activities, outsourcing and regulatory reforms.Job security – defined as a position with good prospects of satisfying work and a career – is weak in most countries. Women usually experience more employment insecurity on average than men and face more types of insecurity. Political democracy and civil liberties significantly increase economic security but economic growth has only a weak impact on security over the longer-term.