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Global unemployment may hit 241m, ILO warns

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However, the global organisation for labour issues added that measures taken so far by G-20 governments would save up to 11 million jobs in 2009.

In a prepared speech to be delivered to the G-20 parley scheduled to hold in Pittsburgh, U.S. on Thursday and Friday this week by the Director General of the ILO, Mr. Juan Somavia, the ILO forecasts that continued labour market deterioration around the world in 2009 would produce an estimated increase in global unemployment of between 39 and 61 million workers relative to 2007. This, it said, could result in global unemployment ranging from 219 to 241 million – the highest level ever on record.

The ILO chief painted the gory picture thus: “Unemployment remains massive today as a result of the crisis. If the special measures taken are unwound or withdrawn too early, the jobs crisis may worsen even further. For people worldwide, and in particular for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, the crisis will not be perceived as receding until they get a decent job and a minimum floor of social protection. A jobless recovery would not be socially or politically sustainable.”

Somavia continued: “The G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh offers the opportunity to commit continued and enhanced support to employment and social protection measures until such time as private demand can sustain economic recovery as well as employment. Strong economic growth and strong employment growth must go hand in hand. Policies should remain targeted on both objectives simultaneously in order to maximise the potential for growth in jobs in the period of economic recovery.”

The ILO further noted that employment and social protection measures taken by G-20 governments since the economic crisis began will have created or saved an estimated seven to 11 million jobs in the G-20 countries.

It added that the “Global Jobs Pact” which was approved in June 2009 by the tripartite membership of the ILO which included governments, employers and workers from 183 countries provides an internationally agreed set of policy measures designed to reach the set objectives.

The previous G-20 summit in London in April 2009 called “upon the ILO, working with other relevant organisations, to assess the actions taken and those required for the future” to address the impact of the economic crisis on labour markets.

In the report entitled: “Protecting People, Promoting Jobs: A survey of country employment and social protection policy responses to the global economic crisis,” the ILO examined actions taken between mid-2008 and July 30, 2009 in 54 countries, spanning all income levels and regions and involving 32 specific measures grouped under four areas, namely stimulating labour demand; supporting jobs, job seekers, and unemployed; expanding social protection and food security; and applying social dialogue and protecting rights at work.

According to the report, the jobs saved or created as a result of the measures, taken by G-20 countries amount to between 29 and 43 per cent of the total increase in unemployment in the first half of 2009, meaning that without such measures unemployment would have been that much higher in these countries.

The ILO study found that the six most frequently taken measures included additional spending on infrastructure, subsidies and tax reductions for small enterprises; credit for small enterprises; training programmes and facilities; consultations with employers and workers’ organisations; and social protection through cash transfers. These measures correspond closely to the policy options outlined in the Global Jobs Pact.

The report also noted that not enough attention has been given to additional measures designed to fight labour trafficking and child labour, stimulate access by small enterprise to public tenders, promote consultations at the sectoral level, increase capacity for labour inspection and protect migrant workers.

While initial responses were aimed at staving off a precipitous decline in employment and mitigating the impact on the most vulnerable, the ILO report found that countries increasingly sought to prepare for recovery by investing in new infrastructure and in preparing the workforce for structural changes such as those resulting from adaptation to lower carbon emissions.

The ILO report notes that lower income countries would need additional support to strengthen their employment and social protection responses to the crisis.

Every year, it noted, some 45 million young women and men enter the global labour market, bringing additional pressures to labour markets already afflicted with high numbers of unemployed, persons discouraged from seeking work and those involuntarily working part time.

Together, these paint a very sizeable employment challenge, now and in the immediate future. Strong economic growth and high employment content of growth are both indispensable. Otherwise, even if recovery starts taking hold, a significant shortfall in available employment would remain for several years.

“Stabilising financial markets and raising the rate of output growth, crucial as these are, are not enough. Financial markets have to be put at the service of the real economy, ensure the flow of credit to enterprises, in particular small enterprises and fuel production and jobs.

“All countries, with the support of relevant international organisations, can engage in a convergent policy effort around employment and social protection, to ensure wide prosperity from robust economic growth and lay the foundations for a fair and sustainable globalisation,”

Somavia added: “This would require building much stronger links between investment, growth and productivity on the one hand, and employment, labour market and social and environmental policies on the other, the basis for a sustained and balanced future growth.”


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