Global unemployment is expected to rise in 2024

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Greek youth demonstrating against growing unemployment amongst young people

GLOBAL unemployment will rise in 2024 and growing inequalities and stagnant productivity are causes for concern, according to the ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2024 report.

Recovery from the pandemic remains uneven as new vulnerabilities and multiple crises are eroding prospects for greater social justice, according to a new International Labour Organisation (ILO) report.
The ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook Trends: 2024  (WESO Trends) finds that both the unemployment rate and the jobs gap rate – which is the number of persons without employment who are interested in finding a job – have fallen below pre-pandemic levels.
The 2023 global unemployment rate stood at 5.1 per cent, a modest improvement from 2022 when it stood at 5.3 per cent. The global jobs gap and labour market participation rates also improved in 2023.
However, the ILO projects that the labour market outlook and global unemployment will both worsen. In 2024 an extra two million workers are expected to be looking for jobs, raising the global unemployment rate from 5.1 per cent in 2023 to 5.2 per cent.
Disposable incomes have declined in the majority of G20 countries and, generally, the erosion of living standards resulting from inflation is, ‘unlikely to be compensated quickly’.
Furthermore, important differences persist between higher and lower income countries. While the jobs gap rate in 2023 was 8.2 per cent in high-income countries, it stood at 20.5 per cent in the low-income group.
Similarly, while the 2023 unemployment rate persisted at 4.5 per cent in high-income countries, it was 5.7 per cent in low-income countries.
Moreover, working poverty is likely to persist. Despite quickly declining after 2020, the number of workers living in extreme poverty (earning less than US$2.15 per person per day in purchasing power parity terms) grew by about 1 million in 2023. The number of workers living in moderate poverty (earning less than US$3.65 per day per person in PPP terms) increased by 8.4 million in 2023.
Income inequality has also widened, the WESO Trends warns, adding that the erosion of real disposable income, ‘bodes ill for aggregate demand and a more sustained economic recovery.’
Rates of informal work are expected to remain static, accounting for around 58 per cent of the global workforce in 2024.
Labour market imbalances
The return to pre-pandemic labour market participation rates has varied between different groups.
Women’s participation has bounced back quickly, but a notable gender gap still persists, especially in emerging and developing nations.
Youth unemployment rates continue to present a challenge. The rate of people defined as NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) remains high, especially among young women, posing challenges for long-term employment prospects.
The report also found that those people who have re-entered the labour market post-pandemic tend not to be working the same number of hours as before while the number of sick days taken has increased significantly.
Productivity growth slowed
Importantly, the report finds that despite technological advances and increased investment, productivity growth has continued to slow.
One reason for this is that significant amounts of investment were directed towards less productive sectors such as services and construction.
Other barriers include skills shortages and the dominance of large digital monopolies, which hinders faster technological adoption, especially in developing countries and sectors with a predominance of low productivity firms.
Outlook uncertain
‘This report looks behind the headline labour market figures and what it reveals must give great cause for concern.
‘It is starting to look as if these imbalances are not simply part of pandemic recovery but structural,’ said ILO Director-General, Gilbert F. Houngbo.
‘The workforce challenges it detects pose a threat to both individual livelihoods and businesses and it is essential that we tackle them effectively and fast.
‘Falling living standards and weak productivity combined with persistent inflation create the conditions for greater inequality and undermine efforts to achieve social justice. And without greater social justice we will never have a sustainable recovery.’

  • Forced labour allegations have been identified in the supply chains of nearly half of the major fashion brands and retailers scrutinised in a new report from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC).

A total of 65 of the world’s largest apparel and footwear companies were examined on their efforts to protect workers in their supply chains from forced labour risks, with more than a fifth scoring less than 5% on the BHRRC’s scorecard.
Separately, BHRRC data revealed migrant workers have suffered from some of the worst forms of abuse over the past year. A total of 613 cases of abuse, linked to 389 named companies, were recorded between 1 December 2022 until 30 November 2023.
The data highlights the threats migrants reportedly face, which industries benefit from abuse and which migration corridors are most dangerous for the workers who use them.
BHRRC said: ‘Worryingly, the scope and scale of abuse is believed to be much higher than these figures indicate – owing to restrictions on journalistic freedoms, lack of access to remedy or grievance mechanisms by migrant workers and the threat of reprisal for workers who said they were afraid to speak up.’
Key takeaways from the data included:

  • The most common category of abuse recorded was violations relating to employment standards (wage, working hour or leave violations, arbitrary dismissal or excessive performance targets) (64%).
  • This was followed by arbitrary denial of freedoms (36%), occupational health and safety breaches (36%) and unfair recruitment practices (34%).
  • Intimidatory, violent or harassing behaviour was also a concern (29%), closely followed by inadequate living standards (28%).
  • At least 90 migrant workers died of alleged corporate abuse or neglect. Most deaths (83%) were explicitly linked to breaches in occupational health and safety standards.
  • Migrant workers were charged recruitment fees in 27% cases, destined for workplaces across Europe, the Gulf, Southeast Asia, the USA and Australasia.

Who is affected?
Low-wage, temporary or undocumented workers are particularly vulnerable to labour rights abuse, while gender and nationality also shape the form and extent of abuse experienced by migrant workers.

  • Migrant workers most frequently impacted by cases of abuse were from Nepal, the Philippines and India.
  • Asia-Pacific is the highest sending and receiving region for migrants, with 30% abuses recorded in the region, while the Americas, Europe and the Middle East are also significant receiving regions.
  • The hotspots for abuse in each region were Malaysia, UK, USA and Qatar.

Who is responsible?
BHRRC said: ‘Companies depend upon and amass huge wealth from the employment of migrant workers, often profiting from their abuse. Transformative, structural change is urgently required – particularly from companies at the top of the supply chains who have the resources, leverage and responsibility to propel this change.

  • The majority of companies we could identify linked to abuses were headquartered in North America and Europe, with USA, UK and Qatar-headquartered companies most frequently named.

• Agri-food supply chains were linked to the highest number of migrant worker abuse (37%). This was followed by construction and engineering (17%).