World Employment and Social Outlook - Trends 2020

Insufficient paid work affects almost half a billion people, new ILO report shows

A lack of decent work combined with rising unemployment and persisting inequality is making it increasingly difficult for people to build better lives through their work, according to the latest edition of the ILO’s global report on employment and social trends.

News | 20 January 2020
Almost half a billion people are working fewer paid hours than they would like or lack adequate access to paid work, according to a new International Labour Organization (ILO) report.

In addition, the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2020 (WESO) shows that unemployment is projected to increase by around 2.5 million in 2020. Global unemployment has been roughly stable for the last nine years but slowing global economic growth means that, as the global labour force increases, not enough new jobs are being generated to absorb new entrants into the labour market.

Unemployment has continued to decline in Europe, but this trend is expected to level off in 2020, since employment growth is decelerating as a result of tightening labour markets in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands along with increased uncertainty and a general economic slowdown.

The report shows that the mismatch between labour supply and demand extends beyond unemployment into broader labour underutilisation. In addition to the global number of unemployed people (188 million), 165 million people don’t have enough paid work and 120 million have either given up actively searching for work or otherwise lack access to the labour market. In total, more than 470 million people worldwide are affected.

“For millions of ordinary people, it’s increasingly difficult to build better lives through work,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “Persisting and substantial work-related inequalities and exclusion are preventing them from finding decent work and better futures. That’s an extremely serious finding that has profound and worrying implications for social cohesion”.

The report also looks at labour market inequalities. Using new data and estimates it shows that, at the global level, income inequality is higher than previously thought, especially in developing countries.

Worldwide, the share of national income going to labour (rather than to other areas) declined substantially between 2004 and 2017, from 54 per cent to 51 per cent, with this decline being most pronounced in Europe, Central Asia and the Americas. As for European countries, the labour income share declined significantly in Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain between 2004 and 2016.

Other significant inequalities – defined by gender, age and geographic location - remain stubborn features of current labour markets, the report shows, limiting both individual opportunities and general economic growth. Many young people, aged 15-24, endure substandard working conditions.

In Europe, the quality of the jobs available to young workers has been impaired by the growing incidence of temporary employment. Young workers in the region are also disproportionately represented among those in on-call work, disguised self-employment and part-time work.

The report finds that the current pace and form of economic growth is hampering efforts to reduce poverty and improve working conditions in low-income countries. The type of growth needs to shift to encourage higher value added activities, through structural transformation, technological upgrading and diversification.

The annual WESO Trends report analyses key labour market issues, including unemployment, labour underutilisation, working poverty, income inequality, labour income share and factors that exclude people from decent work.