Record Global Unemployment in 2009

The number of jobless worldwide reached nearly 212 million in 2009 following an unprecedented increase of 34 million compared to 2007, on the eve of the global crisis, the International Labour Office (ILO) said in its annual Global Employment Trends report. "The increase that we've seen is the largest since we began tracking these global and regional trends in 1991 and in some countries we actually know this increase in unemployment is the largest they've seen since the Great Depression," said Lawrence Jeffrey Johnson, who directed the publication of the report.

Date issued: 27 January 2010 | Size/duration: 00:02:39

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It may come as no surprise that the number of unemployed in 2009 reached the highest level on record at 212 million. An unprecedented 34 million people have lost their jobs since the onset of the crisis.

Lawrence Jeffrey Johnson, Chief, Employment Trends, ILO

The increase that we’ve seen is the largest since we began tracking these global and regional trends in 1991 and in some countries we actually know this increase in unemployment is the largest they’ve seen since the Great Depression.

Developed economies and EU countries make up a small part of the global workforce but accounted for more than 40% of the increase in unemployment since 2007. According to ILO projections, an additional 3 million jobs could be lost in the region in 2010.

East Asia, led by a rapid improvement in the Chinese domestic market saw only a slight increase in unemployment. Central and southeastern Europe felt the most severe shock with a two percentage point increase in its unemployment rate

But the crisis goes well beyond the unemployment numbers. In many parts of the world, people who lose their jobs simply cannot afford to be unemployed, doing any kind of work they can to survive.

Lawrence Jeffrey Johnson, Chief, Employment Trends, ILO

With economic crisis, we know that vulnerable employment makes up more than half of global unemployment. If you look at it from a different dimension in terms of working poor, we see that the crisis itself could put an additional 100 million people into the ranks of the working poor in the most extreme levels. If you look at the 2 dollar per working poor line, that could be as much as 200 million.

The number of unemployed young people increased by over 10 million compared to pre-crisis levels, the largest hike since 1991. Many simply stay in school rather than take a chance in a discouraging labour market. And many older workers having seen the value of their pension funds decline sharply have no option to retire at this stage.

Lawrence Jeffrey Johnson, Chief, Employment Trends, ILO

What we need to be looking at now as the economy is recovering, how do we stabilize the labour markets, how do we basically get labour markets to grow? So stimulus packages are going to be refocused in that direction, more so to help create decent and productive jobs, to try to even further reduce the levels of unemployment that we’ve been seeing globally, but more importantly to address the issues of vulnerable and working poor. The ILO has been at the forefront putting up a Global Jobs Pact to try to give advice and support to countries to determine the best practices and the best ways forward.