Social unrest index

Are economic stagnation and unemployment fueling social unrest?

Using the Social Unrest Index, ILO's 2013 World of Work report looks at the root causes of social unrest around the world.

Article | 08 July 2013
From Tahrir Square to Wall Street, growing economic inequalities and a persistent lack of jobs have caused demonstrators in many countries to demand real change from their governments. But as the global economic recovery stalls and high unemployment rates persist, the root causes of social unrest show no signs of abating.

In its 2013 World of Work Report: Repairing the economic and social fabric, the ILO has reported increases in social unrest using its social unrest index, a composite indicator which provides a reflection of national social health.

Composition of the Social Unrest Index (World of Work 2013, ILO)
A feature of the World of Work Report since 2011, the index is constructed using variables drawn from the Gallup World Poll Survey related to respondents’ confidence in government, standard of living, personal freedoms, job opportunities and access to the Internet.

This latest report found that, since the global crisis, social unrest had increased in a majority of economies. Insufficient economic growth and high unemployment rates are the two most important determinants. Youth unemployment, like all unemployment, increases social unrest, but the impact of total unemployment on social unrest was actually larger than the effect of youth unemployment, specifically.

The majority of advanced, developing and emerging economies have all witnessed increases in social unrest as a result of the crisis. But advanced economies have, on average, had the highest social unrest index score.

Among the advanced economies, Europe is more likely to face social unrest than is North America or other non-EU advanced economies, which is likely a result of policy responses to the ongoing sovereign debt crisis and the impacts on people’s lives and perceptions of well-being. Meanwhile, East Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific are the regions where social unrest is least likely.