5:16 pm - Thursday May 23, 8515

Long-term unemployment: New challenge for many countries

Unemployment spells for workers are becoming longer in some countries compared to the pre-crisis situation in 2008, according to the new edition of the ILO Key Indicators of the Labour Market (KILM).

“Headlines on a recent decline in unemployment rates hide the bitter reality that many jobless workers are finding it increasingly difficult to get into a new job within a reasonable period of time of 6 months or less,” says Ekkehard Ernst, chief of the ILO Employment Trends Unit.

Chances of a job seeker finding a job within a year

For example, in Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, Serbia and Bulgaria, long-term unemployment has increased by 40 per cent or more in comparison to 2008.

ILO 1The latest edition of KILM – an online reference tool offering data and analysis on the world’s labour market – includes information about the dynamics of job losses and job creation in 70 developed and emerging economies.

The new figures show that in countries with similar unemployment rates, there can be substantial differences in labour market trends.

While both the United States and Germany had unemployment rates of around 6.3 per cent between 1970 and 2013, unemployment spells were on average shorter in the US labour market. In France, where unemployment rates have been about 30 per cent higher than in Germany since 1991, it takes on average less time for an unemployed worker to find a job than it does in Germany.


In developing countries, the story is different. Workers move faster between spells of unemployment and employment than in advanced economies, but that’s because they transit frequently into informal employment.

In Mexico, for instance, the number of people entering and leaving the labour market between 2001 and 2012 were 3.7 per cent and 69 per cent higher, respectively, than in the United States – one of the advanced economies with the highest labour market turnover.

Risk that a worker becomes unemployed within a year

“Unemployment rates only give a rough picture of the functioning of a country’s labour market. Our data will help countries adapt their policies to those categories of workers who are most affected by the dynamics of the labour market,” explains Ernst.ILO 2

The data on unemployment flows in the KILM cover, depending on the country, up to 40 years (1968-2012). It is the first time that such statistics have been collected to obtain a single, consistent picture of labour market dynamics in both developed and developing countries.

Skills mismatches are widespread

Countries at all development levels find that adequate education and skills make the difference between inclusive growth and growth that leaves large segments of society behind.

The report shows that the level of skills mismatch (the skills that workers have compared to what the market needs) in developing economies stood at an average of 17.1 per cent in 2012. During most of the past decade it was well below this level, particularly in advanced economies.

The average incidence of over-qualification in developed economies was 10.1 per cent in 2010, up from 8.5 per cent in 2008, and particularly affected migrants, younger workers and persons with disabilities. Under-qualification in developed economies averaged 28.1 per cent in 2010 compared to 31 per cent in 2008.

The report also shows that the incidence of over-education tends to increase over time. This is partly due to rising levels of educational attainment. In times of economic crises, when employment opportunities are scarce and unemployment rates are high, over-education tends to accelerate.

In addition to employment, KILM data also includes information and analysis on wages, labour productivity, working poverty and other labour market issues.

Other key findings are:

Employment by economic class, globally and by region

Working poverty continues to decline and a global middle class is emerging.

ILO 3A total 822 million workers are in poverty in the developing world, amounting to 30.6 per cent of the workforce.

The global middle class continues to expand.

The developing world’s middle class has surged by 870 million since 1991. Currently, 32 per cent of all employees in developing countries belong to the middle class, almost twice as much as at the end of the 1990s.