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Economic Growth Spurs Only Marginal Jobs Growth

Robust Economic Growth Spurs Only Marginal Global Jobs Growth - UN Agency

With global employment improving only slightly in 2004 at a disappointing rate of 1.7 per cent despite robust economic growth, and unemployment decreasing by only two-tenths of a percentage point, job-stimulating policies are essential, the United Nations labour agency reported today.

“While any global decline in unemployment is positive, we must not lose sight of the reality that employment creation still remains a major challenge for policy makers,” International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Juan Somavia said of the agency’s Global Employment Trends, which showed the first drop in joblessness since 2000 and only the second in a decade.

“In other words, we need policies that encourage more employment intensive growth,” he added.

While unemployment worldwide declined last year to 6.1 per cent from 6.3 per cent, or to 184.7 million from 185.2 million in 2003, unemployment in Europe and Central Asia remained unchanged at 35 million, according to the report and an analysis prepared for the Seventh ILO European Regional Meeting opening today in Budapest, Hungary.

The report said a robust global economic growth rate of 5 per cent in 2004 played a large role in these developments but global employment growth of 47.7 million, an increase of only 1.7 per cent in total jobs worldwide, remained disappointing and employment as a share of the working age population stayed virtually unchanged at 61.8 per cent in 2004.

The study said that in addition to creating new jobs, other key challenges facing policy-makers included eliminating the deficit of decent work as drops in unemployment rates do not in themselves indicate improvements in that field. They are only the tip of the iceberg and the focus of policy should therefore not be on unemployment alone, but also on the conditions of work of those who are employed.

It called for urgent action to provide sufficient international aid as rapidly as possible for reconstruction of workplaces, equipment, infrastructure and workers' health in areas affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami as well as adequate policies on HIV/AIDS in the workplace to address the massive anticipated loss of workers to the labour market as a result of the epidemic.

Latin American and the Caribbean showed the strongest decline in unemployment, dropping to 8.6 per cent from 9.3 per cent in 2003, but the improvement in the employment picture was more modest elsewhere.

In the developed economies, there was only a slight decline to 7.2 per cent from 7.4 per cent. In Southeast Asia and the Pacific, the rate evolved to 6.4 per cent from 6.5 per cent, while in South Asia the change was to 4.7 per cent from 4.8 per cent. The rate remained unchanged in East Asia at 3.3 per cent and in the Middle East and North Africa at 11.7 per cent. In sub-Saharan Africa, unemployment edged up slightly to 10.1 per cent from 10.0 per cent despite a 4.4 per cent growth rate in gross domestic product.

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