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Global unemployment set to decline slightly this year: UN labour agency

Garment workers stand next to a line of sewing machines in a clothing plant in Lesotho.
© ILO/Marcel Crozet
Garment workers stand next to a line of sewing machines in a clothing plant in Lesotho.

Global unemployment set to decline slightly this year: UN labour agency

Economic Development

Global unemployment numbers will fall modestly this year, but unequal access to jobs is still a problem worldwide, particularly for women in poorer countries, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said in a new report published on Wednesday. 

The updated World Employment and Social Outlook report predicts that the global unemployment rate will be 4.9 per cent in 2024, slightly down from 5.0 per cent in 2023. 

This represents a revision from the previous projection in January of 5.2 per cent for this year, which is expected to flatten in 2025, with unemployment remaining at 4.9 per cent.

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‘Uneven playing field’ 

The report, however, points to a persistent lack of employment opportunities. 

Currently, the number of people worldwide without a job but who want to work stands at 402 million. This includes 183 million people who are counted as unemployed. 

Women, especially those in low-income countries, are disproportionately affected by the lack of job opportunities. 

“Despite our efforts to reduce global inequalities, the labour market remains an uneven playing field, especially for women,” said ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo. 

Inclusive policies needed 

In low-income countries, more than one in five women, 22.8 per cent, are unable to find work, compared with almost one in seven men, or 15.3 per cent. 

This contrasts with high-income countries, where the rate is nearly 10 per cent for women and 7.3 per cent for men. 

Furthermore, although women in high-income countries earn 73 cents for every dollar earned by men, this figure drops to just 44 cents in low-income countries. 

The report found that family responsibilities are behind much of these differences, “indicating that women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care work plays a major role in shaping gender employment gaps globally”. 

Mr. Houngbo called for countries to work towards inclusive policies that take into considerations of all persons in the workforce. 

“We must place inclusion and social justice at the core of our policies and institutions. Unless we do, we will fall short of our objective to ensure strong and inclusive development," he said. 

United Nations


  • Take immediate measures to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking
  • Protect labour rights, and promote safe, secure environments for all workers
  • Sustain per capita economic growth and at least seven per cent gross domestic product growth per annum in least developed countries
  • Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technology and innovation
  • Improve global resource efficiency in consumption and production
  • Decouple economic growth with environmental degradation

Global unemployment is expected to fall below pre-pandemic levels, although not in low-income countries