ILO warns of 202 million unemployed in 2012 as austerity bites

Monday 30 April 2012 15.38
ILO warns that austerity measures are hitting job markets
ILO warns that austerity measures are hitting job markets

The International Labour Organisation has warned that austerity measures are hurting job markets worldwide.

It predicted global unemployment of 202 million people in 2012, up six million from last year.

The ILO's World of Work Report 2012 said fiscal austerity and labour market reforms had had "devastating consequences" for employment while mostly failing to cut deficits.

It warned that governments risked fueling unrest unless they combined tighter spending with job creation.

"The austerity and regulation strategy was expected to lead to more growth, which is not happening," Raymond Torres, director of the ILO's Institute for International Labour Studies, told journalists in Geneva.

"The strategy of austerity actually has been counterproductive from the point of view of its very objective of supporting confidence and supporting the reduction of budget deficits," he added.

The report said some 50 million jobs had disappeared since the 2008 financial crisis. It predicted a global unemployment rate of 6.1% in 2012 - 202 million people, up 3% from the provisional estimate of 196 million for 2011. It also forecast a rise to 6.2% in 2013 as another five million people become unemployed.

"It is unlikely that the world economy will grow at a sufficient pace over the next couple of years to both close the existing jobs deficit and provide employment for the over 80 million people expected to enter the labour market," the report said.

It warned that trends were especially worrying in Europe, where nearly two-thirds of countries had seen unemployment go up since 2010. It said labour market recovery had also stalled in major economies such as Japan and the US.

A growing and better-educated workforce was meanwhile struggling to find enough good jobs in places such as China, while workers still faced acute job shortfalls in the Arab world and Africa, it added.

Torres, the report's lead author, came down hard on Europe, accusing it of "ill-conceived fiscal austerity".

"For example in Spain, the deficit was reduced from a little over 9% of gross domestic product in 2010 to 8.5% of GDP in 2011, a very small reduction after a drastic austerity programme," he said.

"The narrow focus of many euro zone countries on fiscal austerity is deepening the jobs crisis and could even lead to another recession in Europe," he added.

He singled out Latin America for praise, saying the region had seen an employment recovery and, in some cases, rising job quality. The report found the risk of social unrest had gone down on average in Latin America as job prospects improved. But worldwide, the risk of unrest had increased in most countries, it said.

"This is not surprising given that good jobs remain scarce and income inequality is rising," Torres said. "There is a growing sense that those most affected by the crisis are not receiving adequate policy attention," he said.

The ILO blamed austerity policies for reducing small business' access to loans, and urged governments to restore credit to small firms, strengthen labour market safety nets and adopt measures to help young workers and other vulnerable groups.