21 Jan
WESO ILO

World Employment and Social Outlook (WESO): Trends 2020 (ILO)

ILO has just released the “World Employment and Social Outlook Report: Trends 2020”. This report provides an overview of global and regional trends in employment, unemployment, labour force participation and productivity, as well as dimensions of job quality such as employment status, informal employment and working poverty.

The report also examines income and social developments, and provides an indicator of social unrest.

Key findings are that are unemployment is projected to rise after a long period of stability, and that many people are working fewer paid hours than they would like or lack adequate access to paid work. The report also takes a close look at decent work deficits and persistent labour market inequalities, noting that income inequality is higher than previously thought.

Key conclusions

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 to the labour market.

The WESO shows that the mismatch between labour supply and demand extends beyond unemployment into broader labour underutilization. In addition to the global number of unemployed (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.

It 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 factors of production) declined substantially between 2004 and 2017, from 54 per cent to 51 per cent, with this economically significant fall being most pronounced in Europe, Central Asia and the Americas. This is more than suggested by previous estimates, the WESO shows.

Moderate or extreme working poverty is expected to edge up in 2020-21 in developing countries, increasing the obstacles to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 1 on eradicating poverty everywhere by 2030. Currently working poverty (defined as earning less than US$3.20 per day in purchasing power parity terms) affects more than 630 million workers, or one in five of the global working population.

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 15-24) are not in employment, education or training, and 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.

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

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