ILO: Global unemployment, income inequality rising

Unemployed Milwaukee workers and labor advocates rally in 2011. The recent U.N. High Level Panel included a post-2015 goal on job creation, but countries like the United States, France, Denmark and Spain still show a widening of unemployment and income inequality. Photo by: wisaflcio / CC BY-NC-SA

A U.N. high-level panel’s recent proposal to include a post-2015 goal on job creation takes a crucial turn as a new International Labor Organization report finds global rising unemployment and enduring inequalities.

The ILO unveiled on Tuesday the annual World of Work survey, as the panel recommended a standalone goal on job creation, sustainable livelihood and equitable growth for the framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015.

The survey’s findings are both encouraging and daunting.

The report predicts an increase in global unemployment levels from the current 200 million to almost 208 million by 2015, with advanced economies taking the brunt of the incline. In the developing world there will be a different scenario: Emerging countries like Honduras, Morocco and Uganda will see a steady climb in employment and less income inequalities compared to their high-income counterparts.

The best performers however, with higher employment numbers and a narrower income inequality gap than pre-crisis numbers, are most countries in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, where the survey spots a decline in poverty that remains a fragile improvement amid a population still composed largely of poor and vulnerable people.

At the tail end are most advanced economies, such as France, Denmark, Spain and the United States, which show a widening of income inequalities in the past two years  a downward spiral that the report says will remain until 2015 as unemployment levels rise even further.

“In developing countries, the most important challenge is to consolidate recent progress in reducing poverty and inequality […] More and better jobs are needed so there can be a more balanced distribution of income in both advanced and developing economies,” Raymond Torres, director of the ILO’s research arm, said in a statement.

The report highlights the creation of more and better jobs as a vital factor in “achieving a more balanced distribution of income in both advanced and developing economies” and recommends an approach that balances macroeconomic and employment goals, addresses obstacles to putting jobs closer to the top of the reform agenda, and mobilizes and reinforces social dialogue in countries to foster a more job-friendly environment.

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    Johanna Morden

    Johanna Morden is a community development worker by training and a global development journalist by profession. As a Devex staff writer based in Manila, she covers the Asian Development Bank as well as Asia-Pacific's aid community at large. Johanna has written for a variety of international publications, covering social issues, disasters, government, ICT, business and the law.