International Labour Organisation (ILO) released its report on Global Employment Trends 2014 providing the latest global and regional information and projections on various indicators of the labour market, including employment, unemployment, working poverty and vulnerable employment.
The following are the key highlights in the 120-page report:
- Global unemployment increased by 5 million people in 2013. 2013 saw 202 million unemployed people, an increase of almost 5 million the year before. The worst affected regions include East Asia and South Asia followed by Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.
- The situation is set to worsen with estimations of global unemployment to rise further by 13 million. With more than 215 million jobseekers in the labour market by 2018, the average of 40 million new jobs every year would not be enough to keep pace with the surplus labour force in the market.
- Stall in the progress of reduction in working poverty with 839 million workers living on less than US$2 a day (26.7 per cent of total employment). The rate of reduction in the number of workers in extreme conditions has been only 2.7 percent globally, one of the lowest in the past decade.
The report clearly underlines the impact that the employment trend would particularly have on the youth. It is estimated that some 74.5 million young people – aged 15–24 – were unemployed in 2013 which is almost 1 million more than in the year before. The global youth unemployment rate has reached 13.1 per cent, almost three times as high as the adult unemployment rate. The most affected regions include particularly high in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean and Southern Europe. With longer unemployment spells, jobseekers run the risk of turning obsolete making it more difficult to find alternative employment.
Another disturbing trend has also been the drop in the participation rates in the labour markets with significant numbers of women leaving the labour market in East and South Asia. In many regions such as Central and Eastern Europe many inactive people have returned to the informal labour market. The percentage increase in vulnerable employment has also gone up with self- employment making up almost 48% of total employment.
The report is once again a re-iteration of the close linkage between child labour and youth empowerment. While there are 168 million child labourers still in the grips of child labour, there are 74.5 million unemployed youth, as stated above. The cycle of poverty and illiteracy points to the fact that most of the inadequately employed youth of today have been child labourers in the past. Conversely, the lack of resources and social security for the youth invariably leads to little or no investment in the child’s development.
The issue of decent pay for work also forms an important factor in dealing with the issue of youth employment and child labour. According to the ILO Report, 375 million workers (or 11.9 per cent of total employment) are estimated to live on less than US$1.25 per day and 839 million workers (or 26.7 per cent of total employment) have to cope with US$2 a day or less. This amount is unlikely to lift the youth out of poverty and is mostly likely to draw more children into the practice of child labour.
Global March Against Child Labour as a worldwide movement is committed to its fight against child labour elimination particularly within the broader social policy framework of promoting education, poverty alleviation and decent work. This is achievable only by linking the movement to other key stakeholders of which the youth forms a vital component. The need of the hour is thus to recognize the youth’s dynamism and advocate for the same. Building partnerships between youth-adults and youth-children is also necessary in order to understand the overlaps between these sections of population. The challenge is also to focus on exploited and excluded youth groups. The present situation, as the report points out, also calls for active labour market policies (ALMP) that need to be implemented more forcefully to address inactivity and skills mismatch.
Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson of Global March observed, “The situation is not only grim but alarming and calls for serious and urgent action for universal education in order to end child labour. Concrete measures for life-long learning, investment on skill-building among young people and promoting entrepreneurship in a youth-centric development paradigm is the need of the hour. If we fail to channelise the youth dividend by engaging them in personal, societal and economic growth and development, we invite the most unpredictable dangers to come.”
Needless to say, both these groups- children and youth, comprise a section of the population that is most vulnerable. Susceptible to exploitation, gender inequality, risks of migration and trafficking are common to both and the needs of one cannot be prioritised and framed without looking into that of the other. The challenge for Global March is thus to translate hazardous work for children into decent youth employment with special focus on the informal sector.