Nearly half a billion people affected by insufficient paid work: ILO

  • Staff Correspondent,
    Published: 2020-01-21 05:19:45 BdST

Almost half a billion people are working fewer paid hours than they would like or lack adequate access to paid work, the International Labour Organization says.

Unemployment is projected to increase by around 2.5 million in 2020 from 188 million, according to the ILO’s latest global report on employment and social trends.

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”, the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2020 (WESO) says.

The WESO, published on Monday, shows that the mismatch between labour supply and demand extends beyond unemployment into broader labour underutilisation.

In addition to the global number of unemployed, 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, the report says.

In total, more than 470 million people worldwide are affected.

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 to the labour market.

“For millions of ordinary people, it’s increasingly difficult to build better lives through work,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

A worker hauling rawhides preserved with salt to a truck from a warehouse in Old Dhaka's Posta on Monday morning. Photo: Abdullah Al Momin

A worker hauling rawhides preserved with salt to a truck from a warehouse in Old Dhaka's Posta on Monday morning. Photo: Abdullah Al Momin

“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 WESO also shows that at the global level income inequality is higher than previously thought, especially in developing countries.

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.

In particular, a staggering 267 million young people aged between 15 and 24 have NEET status or “not in employment, education or training” while many more endure substandard working conditions.

The report cautions that intensifying trade restrictions and protectionism could have a significant impact on employment, both directly and indirectly.

The WESO recommends that the type of growth needs to shift to encourage higher-value added activities, through structural transformation, technological upgrading and diversification.

“Labour underutilisation and poor-quality jobs mean our economies and societies are missing out on the potential benefits of a huge pool of human talent,” said the report’s lead author, Stefan Kühn.

“We will only find a sustainable, inclusive path of development if we tackle these kinds of labour market inequalities and gaps in access to decent work.”


Wide gender gaps in Bangladesh and other population-rich countries in South Asia and North Africa are driving down the global average, the ILO report shows.

Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation brings out a May Day procession in Dhaka on Wednesday. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

The gender gap is smallest in low- and high-income countries, standing at around 15 percentage points in both groups, according to the report.

It says the rate is almost 40 percentage points in lower-middle-income countries in South Asia - Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

South Asia is also driving NEET rate high with 81 million young women having the status.

The sub-region had the highest unemployment rate (5.4 percent), followed by East Asia (4.1 percent) and South-East Asia and the Pacific (3.1 percent).

“There is a real need to invest in people’s capabilities like life-long learning, gender equality, and social security. A sustainable and inclusive path of development can only be achieved if labour market inequalities and gender gaps in access to decent work are tackled,” said Tuomo Poutianien, Country Director of ILO Bangladesh.






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