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ILO : An increase in the unemployment rate for 2024

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ILO : An increase in the unemployment rate for 2024

According to the latest ILO report, it is projected that an additional two million workers will enter the job market in Africa and worldwide. The global unemployment rate, which was recorded at 5.1 % last year, shows a slight improvement from 2022’s 5.3 %. However, despite this improvement, the report indicates that approximately 191 million individuals will be affected by unemployment.

Rising unemployment in Africa and around the world

This year, an additional two million individuals are actively seeking employment, potentially leading to a rise in the average unemployment rate in Africa and worldwide to approximately 5.2 %, up from last year’s 5.1 %. This trend, highlighted in the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) report titled « World Employment and Social Trends : 2024 », is raising concerns among policymakers regarding the acceleration of social inequalities in Africa.

Despite a rapid decline following the challenges of 2020, ILO data reveals a troubling increase in the number of workers living in extreme poverty. By 2023, the global count of individuals earning less than 2.15 USD per person per day in purchasing power parity is projected to grow by approximately one million.

Implementing strategies and policies to benefit workers

This sudden surge underscores the vulnerability of specific segments within the labor force, emphasizing the necessity for focused interventions and policies in African economies and beyond to tackle the underlying causes of in-work poverty. One of the objectives will therefore be to bridge the financial gap between men and women in Africa.

The uptick in extreme poverty among workers signals that economic hardships persist beyond the immediate aftermath of global events like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Limited access to stable employment persists

The ILO stresses the importance of conducting a thorough examination of the factors contributing to this phenomenon, including wage disparities, limited access to stable employment, and potential deficiencies in social safety nets.

« Despite deteriorating economic conditions, labor markets have displayed remarkable resilience. However, the recovery from the pandemic remains uneven, with new vulnerabilities and multiple crises undermining prospects for greater social justice », states the ILO report.

Behind these statistics, the emergence of vulnerabilities is becoming increasingly apparent, according to the ILO. The organization predicts that an additional two million individuals will be seeking employment this year. Moreover, there persists a significant disparity between high- and low-income countries. While the job shortage rate is projected to be 8.2 % in high-income nations in 2023, it is expected to soar to 20.5 % in low-income countries.

Unemployment rate in low-income countries

In 2023, while the unemployment rate is anticipated to remain at 4.5 % in high-income countries, it is projected to reach 5.7 % in low-income nations, such as those in Africa. The ILO also forecasts the persistence of in-work poverty. In June 2023, the ILO cautioned that low-income countries in Africa and the Middle East would not reap the benefits of the global recovery in unemployment rates. This was attributed to : Persistent economic shocks, Fluctuations in interest rates, Disruptions in supply chains and High inflation.

Despite a rapid decline in unemployment levels after 2020, the ILO reports that the number of workers living in moderate poverty increased by 8.4 million last year. Additionally, income inequality has widened, with informal work expected to remain stable, constituting approximately 58 % of the global workforce in 2024, according to the report.

The UN agency highlights variations in the return to pre-pandemic participation rates across different groups. While women’s participation is rebounding swiftly, a noticeable gender gap persists, particularly in emerging and developing countries.

Youth Unemployment Rate

Youth unemployment rates persist as a formidable challenge, with a significant proportion falling into the category of NEET (not in employment, education, or training), particularly among young women. This trend poses a significant obstacle to long-term employment prospects.

The report also reveals that individuals rejoining the labor market post-pandemic are not working the same number of hours as before, while there has been a substantial increase in the number of sick days taken.

Despite a brief surge in the aftermath of the pandemic, labor productivity has regressed to the low levels observed in the previous decade, as per an analysis by the ILO. The analysis indicates that despite technological advancements and increased investment, productivity growth in the labor market has continued to decelerate. This trend is primarily attributed to substantial investments being directed towards less productive sectors such as services and construction.

Identify and address barriers to unemployment

Additional barriers include skills shortages and the overwhelming influence of large digital monopolies. The report underscores that these imbalances are not transient aspects of the post-pandemic recovery but are ingrained within the structure of economies.

Gilbert F. Houngbo, Director-General of the ILO, emphasizes that labor-related challenges jeopardize the livelihoods of both individuals and businesses. He stresses the urgent need to address these issues effectively, stating, « It is imperative that we tackle them promptly and decisively. Declining living standards, coupled with low productivity and persistent inflation, lay the groundwork for increased inequality and undermine endeavors toward achieving social justice. Without greater social justice, a sustainable recovery will remain elusive. »

Labour market trends in sub-Saharan Africa

According to the ILO, GDP growth in sub-Saharan Africa is anticipated to decelerate for the second consecutive year in 2023, though growth is projected to rebound in 2024. The organization points out several factors contributing to the slowdown in economic expansion in the region, including : high inflation rates, repercussions of supply chain disruptions, global decline in consumer confidence and underperformance of several major African economies.

The ILO’s report reveals that the working-age population in sub-Saharan Africa is set to increase by 3.3 % by 2023. This translates to an additional 53 million individuals entering the labor force compared to 2019.

However, the labor force in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow by an additional 14 million individuals this year alone. The ILO underscores that unemployment has remained persistently elevated since the onset of the pandemic, with young people particularly susceptible to the risks associated with joblessness.

Facilitating access to the labor market for young people

In 2023, the average unemployment rate stood at 5.8 %, affecting approximately 27 million people, compared to 5.9 % in 2019. However, the youth demographic faced a notably higher unemployment rate of 8.9 %, encompassing around 9.4 million individuals.

Against the backdrop of a burgeoning working-age population, young people are especially susceptible to disillusionment and detachment from the labor market, as highlighted by the ILO. This vulnerability stems from the challenges they encounter in securing decent and productive employment opportunities upon entering the workforce.

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