UN labour agency raises estimates of world unemployment

28 May 2009

The International Labour Organization (ILO) today revised upwards its estimates of worldwide unemployment, and called for a “global jobs pact” to address the current crisis.

In statistics released today, the ILO said it estimated that in the period of 2007 to 2009 between 210 million and 239 million persons would be unemployed, representing global unemployment rates of 6.5 and 7.4 per cent respectively, or increases of between 39 and 59 million unemployed people since 2007.

Three months ago the ILO projected that global unemployment was likely to increase by between 24 million – an unemployment rate of 6.3 per cent – to 52 million people – or 7.1 per cent – for the same period.

“We are seeing an unprecedented increase in unemployment and the number of workers at risk of falling into poverty around the world this year,” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia.

“This is cause for grave concern. To avoid a global social recession we need a global jobs pact to address this crisis, and mitigate its effects on people. The choice is ours and the time to act is now.”

The ILO said projections indicate that 200 million workers are at risk of joining the ranks of people living on less than $2 per day between 2007 and 2009.

The number of unemployed youth is expected to increase by between 11 and 17 million from 2008 to 2009. The youth unemployment rate is projected to increase from around 12 per cent in 2008 to a range of 14 to 15 per cent in 2009.

Mr. Somavia said past experience suggested a considerable lag of four to five years on average in the recovery in labour markets after economic recovery. There was a risk of the global jobs crisis persisting for the next several years, he said.

He aid the ILO’s annual International Labour Conference, to be held in Geneva from 3 to 19 June, was to consider the emergency global jobs pact which “aimed at placing employment creation and social protection at the centre of recovery policies.”

“The aim of the pact is to make sure that both the extraordinary stimulus measures together with other government policies better address the needs of people who need protection and work, in order to accelerate combined economic and employment recovery,” he said.

The ILO also said that between 2009 and 2015, some 300 million new jobs will have to be created just to absorb the growth in the labour force.

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