More than 3 million people will become unemployed worldwide in the next two years, making existing jobs vulnerable and fuelling potential social unrest as the global economy slows, a report warns.
The International Labour Organization predicts unemployment will rise by about 2.3 million this year to 199.4 million, and that 1.1 million will be added to the global count in 2017, taking joblessness to more than 200 million for the first time on record.
The ILO, a UN agency focused on labour standards and social protection, said the effects of last year’s economic slowdown would play out in higher unemployment in 2016, particularly in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
Developing markets in those areas will bear the brunt of increased joblessness after the prices of oil and other commodities tumbled in response to slowing growth, the ILO said in its World Employment and Social Outlook report for 2016.
The ILO released the forecasts as the global financial elite gathered in the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting. The event takes place as oil prices hover near 13-year lows below $30 a barrel, share prices tumble and analysts try to determine the impact of China’s slowing economy.
Raymond Torres, one of the report’s authors, said market turmoil at the start of 2016 meant his already gloomy predictions could prove overoptimistic. The International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecast on Tuesday.
“There are risks and they are mainly on the downside,” Torres said. “We don’t know the exact dimensions of the slowdown in China. The labour market impact is one of the unknowns because we are going into uncharted territory.”
The ILO said oil producers such as Brazil, Nigeria and Russia could suffer social instability as unemployment rose. Brazil has experienced bouts of protest and social disorder in response to spending cuts, tax rises and joblessness.
Torres said: “In these countries, there are shrinking budgets for social protection, food subsidies and so on. When measures like this are taken, it can fuel social tensions.”
Unemployment fell last year in developed economies, but the global total of 197.1 million remained 27 million higher than in 2007, before the financial crisis.
Torres said the expected rise in unemployment to 200 million was coupled with increasing insecurity, as solid jobs are replaced by unstable work in developing and developed countries.
“It’s not just unemployment – underemployment is going in the same direction. There are lower participation rates in India but also in the US, where people have dropped out of the labour market, and also in the UK, where for some groups there is low participation.”
The ILO research showsthe UK is one of the stronger countries for employment. Britain’s unemployment rate of 5.2% in October 2015 was the lowest since January 2006. The number of young people not in education, unemployment or training was at an eight-year low and prospects look positive for job creation, it concludes.
But Torres said poor quality, unstable jobs remained a problem for the UK and that welfare changes needed to maintain support for people struggling to find work. Low-paid, insecure jobs weaken the economy by reducing the living standards of those most likely to spend money, he said.
Guy Ryder, the ILO director general, said: “Many working women and men are having to accept low-paid jobs, both in emerging and developing economies, and also increasingly in developed countries. Despite a drop in the number of unemployed in some EU countries and the US, too many people are still jobless. We need to take urgent action to boost the number of decent work opportunities or we risk intensified social tensions.”
This article was written by Sean Farrell, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 19th January 2016 21.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010