Global Unemployment

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It will offer small consolation to the long term unemployed in the US to know that much of the rest of the world is suffering from the same problem. The International Labor Organization (ILO) reported late last month that more than 1.1 billion people were either unemployed or underemployed and living in the clutches of poverty.

While there may be some truth to the old saw that "misery loves company" and the discovery that there are a billion people in the boat may be somehow weirdly comforting, you have to wonder how long the dinghy will dally on the surface before behaving more like an anchor.

It's also unsettling to realize just how long the unemployment lines are and how many people have applied for the job you so desperately need. With 1.1 billion people waiting the line will stretch around the globe 25 times so you're not likely to get home for lunch.

Globally as well as here at home the young are hit particularly hard:

"Youth unemployment increased by more than 4 million from 2007 to 74.8 million in 2011. Also, the current global youth unemployment rate of 12.7 percent remained a full percentage point above the pre-crisis level." RTTNews

As if the world weren't tense enough the thought of 75 million young people out of work and without prospects in a time of rising prices for tuition, food, shelter, fuel and nearly everything else should give pause to the so called job creators who are sitting on their trillions waiting for a time of certainty.

Even here at home the prospects have diminished for young workers. According to a Pew Research Center study released yesterday only 54 percent of Americans in the 18 to 14 age bracket are working:

"That's the lowest employment rate for this age group since the government began keeping track in 1948. And it's a sharp drop from the 62 percent who had jobs in 2007 -- suggesting the recession is crippling career prospects for a broad swath of young people who were still in high school or college when the downturn began." Alexander Eichler/Huffington Post

It would seem that watching the events unfold in the "Arab Spring" the Libyan uprising and the now unfolding Syrian tragedy might convince the money holders to loosen the purse strings and begin to stem the rising tide of economic inequality.

From the ILO report:

  • There has been a marked slowdown in the rate of progress in reducing the number of working poor. Nearly 30 per cent of all workers in the world – more than 900 million – were living with their families below the US $2 poverty line in 2011, or about 55 million more than expected on the basis of pre-crisis trends. Of these 900 million working poor, about half were living below the US $1.25 extreme poverty line.
  • The number of workers in vulnerable employment globally in 2011 is estimated at 1.52 billion, an increase of 136 million since 2000 and of nearly 23 million since 2009.
  • Among women, 50.5 per cent are in vulnerable employment, a rate that exceeds the corresponding share for men (48.2).
  • Favourable economic conditions pushed job creation rates above labour force growth, thereby supporting domestic demand, in particular in larger emerging economies in Latin America and East Asia.
  • The labour productivity gap between the developed and the developing world – an important indicator measuring the convergence of income levels across countries – has narrowed over the past two decades, but remains substantial: Output per worker in the Developed Economies and European Union region was US $ 72,900 in 2011 versus an average of US $ 13,600 in developing regions.

The gap between the extremely rich and the average Joe in the US has widened to a yawning gulf and the trend continues worldwide. How much the impoverished, the young, people who see only hunger and despair on the horizon will tolerate before they become... restive is anyone's guess but the oligarchy would be well advised to pay close attention.

This beast may not sleep much longer.

Bob Higgins

Related stories and sources:

Global Unemployment Outlook Gloomy, ILO Report
Global Employment Trends
Standard of living in the developing world
Structure of Poverty

About the author


Marine Vietnam vet. Have worked as a photographer, cab driver, bartender, carpenter, cabinetmaker, writer and editor.

Now retired on a Veterans Disability program I spend my time writing, and complaining about politics and the environment.

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