A new report finds the world’s unemployment rate has dropped to five percent, the lowest level since the global economic crisis in 2008. The International Labor Organization reports the jobs being created, however, are poor quality jobs that keep most of the world’s workers mired in poverty.
Slightly more than 172 million people globally were unemployed in 2018. That is about 2 million less than the previous year. The International Labor Organization expects the global unemployment rate of five percent to remain essentially unchanged over the next few years.
The ILO report — World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2019 — finds a majority of the 3.3 billion people employed throughout the world, though, are working under poor conditions that do not guarantee them a decent living.
ILO Deputy Director-General for Policy, Deborah Greenfield says many people have jobs that do not offer them economic security, lack material well-being and decent work opportunities.
“These jobs tend to be informal and characterized by low pay, insecurity and little or no access to social protection and rights at work. Worldwide, 2 billion workers, or 61 percent, were in informal employment,” she said.
Over the past 30 years, the report finds a great decline in working poverty in middle-income countries. But the situation remains serious in low- and middle-income countries. The report says one-quarter of those employed there do not earn enough to escape extreme or moderate poverty.
Regionally, the ILO reports only 4.5 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s working age population is unemployed, with 60 percent employed. ILO Director of Research, Damian Grimshaw, says these good statistics are deceptive.
“In sub-Saharan Africa we find 18 of the top 20 countries with the highest rates of poverty. And they are also the countries with very, very high informal employment. So, higher than 80 percent in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, despite having some of the lowest unemployment rates in the world,” he said.
Grimshaw says the unemployment rate is not a good measure of labor market performance or economic performance in countries with high rates of informality.
ILO experts also highlight the lack of progress in closing the gender gap in labor force participation. They note only 48 percent of women are working, compared to 75 percent of men.
Another worrying issue is high youth unemployment. The ILO says one in five young people under 25 are jobless and have no skills. It warns this compromises their future employment prospects.
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