Global Employment Trends Brief, January 2006

Despite robust GDP growth in 2005, labour market performance worldwide was mixed, with more people in work than in 2004 but at the same time more unemployed people than the year before. Overall the global unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.3 per cent after 2 successive years of decline. At the end of 2005, 2.85 billion people aged 15 and older were in work, up 1.5 per cent over the previous year, and up 16.5 per cent since 1995.

Given that unemployment is just the tip of the iceberg, the focus in developing economies should not be solely based on unemployment alone, but also on the conditions of work of those who are employed. In 2005, of the over 2.8 billion workers in the world, nearly 1.4 billion still did not earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the US$2 a day poverty line – just as many as ten years ago. Among these working poor, 520 million lived with their families in extreme poverty on less than US$1 a day. Even though this is less than ten years ago it still means that nearly every fifth worker in the world has to face the almost impossible situation of surviving with less than US$1 a day for each family member.

This brief updates the labour market trends to 2005 and addresses six key labour market challenges: 1) energy prices; 2) the importance of labour market recovery after natural disasters; 3) the impact of the phasing out of the Multi-Fiber Arrangement (MFA); 4) global wage inequalities; 5) sectoral employment shifts; and 6) labour market challenges as a result of migration.

Changes in labour markets require constant monitoring so that appropriate policy interventions to support workers and businesses can be applied. The ILO’s annual Global Employment Trends publications aim to provide those concerned with the promotion of decent work for all with some of the basic information needed to continue to improve and target policies.