The 13.1 per cent rate of unemployment in the 15-24 years age-group globally is more than twice that among the adult population.

With one million more young people joining the ranks of the jobless in 2013, the world’s youth are facing a disproportionate burden, says the latest report of the International Labour Organisation. The Global Employment Trends report 2014 also records slow progress of late in reducing levels of vulnerable employment and working poverty, a result of the continued impact of the 2007-08 financial and economic crisis. The 13.1 per cent rate of unemployment in the 15-24 years age-group globally is more than twice that among the adult population. This is a particular concern in India where people below 25 years of age constitute more than 50 per cent of the population. Equally worrying is the finding that the number of youth who are neither in employment nor in education or training is on the rise in many countries. Again for India, the overwhelming majority (around 90 per cent) of the workforce in the unorganised sector lacks even the basic social protection that is necessary for the reproduction of labour. The whole scenario has to be viewed against the ILO’s projection that employment will continue to expand at a slower pace than the labour force, resulting in a shortfall of some two million jobs annually over the next five years. As much as 45 per cent of all new job-seekers will be from East and South Asia, the region that already lags behind on several indicators that are critical to human development.

The year 2013 seems to have been especially bad, with as many as five million people joining the ranks of the jobless. The figure also lends greater substance to claims regarding uneven recovery from the crisis in the last decade. One comparison in the report is instructive: whereas monetary stimulus in the aftermath of the crisis induced aggregate demand, a rising share of the additional liquidity has not been feeding into the real economy. It is almost axiomatic that slow growth and low levels of job creation reinforce one another, a fact overlooked by fiscal conservatives. If anything, the need to make provision for unemployment and other relevant benefits for large segments of society that are out of work put paid to attempts by governments to balance budgets — not to mention other deleterious consequences. Strong social protection measures will not only promote the overall interests of the workforce and the economy in general in the medium term, they will also lay the foundation to face the demographic transition over the next two decades. This is expected to result in a large increase in the numbers of the elderly as a proportion of the overall population, presenting new challenges for policymaking.

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