The International Labor Organization has warned that rising unemployment, inequality and a lack of decent jobs have helped fuel a rise in social unrest that threatens to intensify unless policymakers take swift action.
The UN’s labor agency said that its measure of protest activities around the world had ticked higher in the last year against a backdrop of economic and political uncertainty. In a downbeat report into global labor market prospects, the agency also predicted migration could rise over the next decade as frustrated jobseekers leave their countries in search of better prospects.
After a year which involved antiausterity protests in Brazil, demonstrations against the election of Donald Trump in the US and industrial action in the UK, the ILO said its tracking of global events showed the risk of social unrest or discontent had “heightened across almost all regions”. Its social unrest index increased between 2015 and 2016 to above the long-term average for the last four decades, the agency said in its latest World Employment and Social Outlook. Steven Tobin, ILO senior economist and lead author of the report, drew links between that febrile climate and the rise in protests. He said that it speaks to discontent with the socioeconomic situation, with finding a quality job and being able to share in the gains of whatever limited prosperity there is.
The warning comes a day after the World Economic Forum said income inequality and the polarization of societies posed a risk to the global economy in 2017. Before its annual meeting in Davos next week, the WEF said the gap between wealthy and poor had been behind the UK’s Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election victory in the US. The ILO has also drawn links between inequality and those votes and it is predicting more discontent among workers this year. As economic growth continues to disap- Income Inequality and Social Unrest The International Labor Organization in its latest report predicted that migration could increase over the next decade as frustrated jobseekers leave their countries in search of better prospects point, global unemployment will rise by 3.4 million people this year, taking the jobless rate to 5.8 percent from 5.7 percent in 2016, it predicted. Small improvements across developing and developed countries would not be enough to offset deteriorating labor market conditions in emerging – or middle-income – countries, it said.
For those who were in work, a large proportion would continue to suffer from economic insecurity,the ILO said. It predicted vulnerable forms of employment would remain above 42 percent of total employment in 2017, accounting for 1.4 billion people worldwide. Examples of such work include those working for themselves or in unpaid family work with little or no social protection.
The report also highlighted disparities between men and women in the world of work. For example, in northern Africa, women in the labor force were twice as likely as men to be unemployed in 2017. Vulnerable forms of employment were consistently higher for women across Africa, Asia and the Pacific and the Arab states. Partly linked to rising discontent and a lack of decent work, there had been an increase in people’s willingness to migrate, the report noted. Between 2009 and 2016, the share of the working-age population willing to migrate abroad permanently increased in every region of the world except for south Asia, south-east Asia and the Pacific.
The ILO echoed central bankers and groups such as the International Monetary Fund in urging policymakers to stem the rise in unemployment by increasing state spending where possible and by addressing the root causes of the economic slowdown such as income inequality.