UN warns of up to 51 million more jobless by year's end

A statement from the UN's International Labour Organisation warns that two years of global financial turmoil could leave over 50 million more people unemployed by the end of 2009 "if the situation continues to deteriorate".


AFP - Two years of global financial and economic meltdown could leave over 50 million more people unemployed by the end of 2009, risking social unrest, the International Labour Organization warned Wednesday.

New estimates indicate that "global unemployment in 2009 could increase over 2007 by a range of 18 million to 30 million workers, and more than 50 million if the situation continues to deteriorate," the ILO said in a statement.

That could raise the world's jobless total to 198 million, or 230 million people in the worst case scenario, according to the figures in the ILO's report, "Global Employment Trends 2009".

In 2007, some 179 million people were out of work, according to the report.

"The ILO's message is realistic, not alarmist," Director-General Juan Somavia told reporters.

"We have to assume that we are now facing a global jobs crisis."

Officials were more inclined to a middle range scenario of 30 million job losses for 2007-2009, raising the worldwide unemployment tally to 210 million.

The lowest range was based on existing International Monetary Fund (IMF) data but labour experts here believe it is already outdated.

"I believe the lowest one has already been overtaken," Somavia said.

That could propel the global unemployment rate to an average of 6.5 percent, or 7.1 percent in the worst case, for this year, against 5.7 percent in 2007.

The report indicated that 190 million people were jobless by the end of 2008 after 11 million jobs were shed around the world last year alone, based on a combination of official national data and estimates.

If that figure were confirmed, the economic crisis could claim two to four times more jobs this year alone.

Somavia urged the Group of 20 leading industrial and emerging economies to examine measures to boost "productive" investments, create jobs and bolster social protection, instead of focussing on financial institutions.

IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on Monday criticised the G20, saying they had made little progress in fighting the global financial crisis.

Pointing to growing unease about job security, Somavia said: "I think that social unrest is here already.    

"That's why the emphasis we're giving to this crisis is -- please don't forget the people."

France was bracing for major disruption to transport and public services on Thursday in a nationwide strike called to protest government policy on coping with the global financial crisis.

Fears about the impact of the economic crisis were also the centre of the World Social Forum in Brazil, where about 100,000 people are expected to attend the counterweight to the meeting of global business and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland this week.

The ILO figures indicated that developed economies would be hit the hardest by the economic crisis with the fastest rise in unemployment rates, from an average of 5.7 percent in 2007 up to 6.6-7.9 percent in 2009.

East Asia, which had the lowest regional unemployment rate at 3.5 percent in 2007, could also experience a jump to 4.5-5.5 percent in a year.

The crisis could also push another 200 million workers into extreme poverty as they eke out a living in informal, underpaid and unstable work, especially in Africa and South Asia, the ILO predicted.

That would swell the ranks of the "working poor" to 1.4 billion, just under half of all the world's working population.

Although the absolute jobless numbers would be unprecedented, the impact on the working population in percentage terms would still be well below what was experienced during the Great Depression of the 1930s, labour experts noted.

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