Global unemployment remains high

Effects of pandemic felt in labor markets around the world


Photo: Joe Piette / Flickr


At a recent press conference, the Director General of International Labor Organization (ILO, Guy Ryder presented the report The ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2022.

Guy Ryder said that there can be no real recovery from this pandemic without a broad-based labor market recovery. “And to be sustainable, this recovery must be based on the principles of decent work, including health and safety, equity, social protection and social dialogue.”

While this latest projection is an improvement on the situation in 2021, it remains almost 2% below the number of global hours worked pre-pandemic.

Global unemployment is expected to remain above pre-COVID-19 levels until at least 2023. The 2022 level is estimated at 207 million, compared to 186 million in 2019. The ILO’s report also cautions that the overall impact on employment is significantly greater than represented in these figures because many people have left the labour force. In 2022, the global labour force participation rate is projected to remain 1.2 percentage points below that of 2019.

The effects are being felt in labor markets in all regions of the world, although a great divergence in recovery patterns can be observed. The European and the North American regions are showing the most encouraging signs of recovery, while South-East Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean have the most negative outlook. At the national level, labour market recovery is strongest in high-income countries, while lower- and middle-income economies are faring worst. The report warns of the stark differences in the impact the crisis is having across groups of workers and countries. These differences are deepening inequalities within and among countries and weakening the economic, financial and social fabric of almost every nation, regardless of development status. This damage is likely to require years to repair, with potential long-term consequences for labour force participation, household incomes and social and possibly political cohesion.

“Two years into this crisis, the outlook remains fragile and the path to recovery is slow and uncertain,” said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder. “We are already seeing potentially lasting damage to labour markets, along with concerns about increases in poverty and inequality. Many workers are being required to shift to new types of work, for example in response to the prolonged slump in international travel and tourism.”

The ILO report shows that, as in previous crises, temporary employment created a buffer against the shock of the pandemic for some. While many temporary jobs were terminated or not renewed, alternative ones were created, including for workers who had lost permanent jobs. On average, the incidence of temporary work did not change.

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Marit Fosse

Marit Fosse trained as an economist from Norwegian school of Economics and Business Administration in Bergen (Norges Handelshøyskole NHH) and then earned a doctorate in social sciences. She is the author of several books. Nansen: Explorer and Humanitarian, co-authored with John Fox, was translated into Russian/Armenian/French. In addition, Fosse is the editor of International Diplomat/Diva International in Geneva, a magazine set up 20 years ago for diplomats and persons working in the international organizations in Geneva but also elsewhere. In her free time, Fosse is an accomplished painter.