There has been considerable progress in terms of socio-economic development and recognition of rights. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
Job creation has been positive, albeit slightly below the rate of population growth: Total employment (including employees, contributing family workers, own-account workers and employers) continues to grow and has been accompanied by signi cant gains in educational attainment. In spite of several recessions, including the most recent global nancial and economic crisis which began in 2008, total employment in 2016 stood at 3.2 billion (nearly 1 billion higher than in 1991). Nevertheless, the growth in jobs has fallen just short of working-age population growth; consequently, the employment-to-population ratio (ratio of employment to population for persons aged 15 and over) has fallen marginally between 1991 and 2016 (figure 1.1).
Increased female labour market participation: Along with policy efforts to improve women’s rights, female participation in the labour market has risen substantially over the past century. The gender gap has narrowed in most regions, although low female labour force participation persists in some regions, such as the Arab States, Northern Africa, and Southern Asia. Currently, female labour market participation rates, at just over 49 per cent, remain nearly 27 percentage points below those of males. The ILO’s Women at Work Centenary Initiative focuses on addressing structural and other barriers to greater female participation and closing the gender pay gap.
Working poverty has declined: Since the introduction of the Millennium Development Goals, the share of extreme poverty has been halved and, according to recent ILO estimates, the share of employed persons in emerging and developing countries living in extreme poverty (i.e. living with their families on less than US$1.90 per person per day) fell from over 50 per cent in 1991 to just over 10 per cent in 2016 (figure 1.2).
Yet, unemployment levels remain high as the global labour force continues to grow
Although net job creation remains positive, it has not been suf cient to absorb the growth in the number of men and women looking for work. As of 2016, there were some 198 million jobless people across the globe actively seeking employment, nearly three-quarters of whom were living in emerging countries10 (figure 1.4).
This translates into an estimated global unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent in 2016, slightly below the average rate of 6.1 per cent registered between 1991 and 2015. Women and young persons (aged 15–24) are more likely to be unemployed than their male and adult counterparts, respectively. In fact, among the nearly 200 million unemployed persons globally, over 70 million are aged 15–24.
Yet the usual measure of unemployment masks signi cant differences in decent work de cits that prevail across regions and countries. In emerging and developing countries, unemployment rates are lower than in developed countries (5.6 per cent versus 6.3 per cent), as the lack of unemployment protection (or incomes) may reduce the amount of time jobseekers spend looking for employment and could lead them into underemployment and taking a job that might not match their skills and experience or desired hours of work (in many instances this means taking up an informal job). In fact, the employment-to-population ratio, i.e. the share of employed people in the total working-age population (aged 15 years and above) is highest in developing countries. However, the fact that these countries have the highest rates of informality, underemployment and working poverty highlights the need to assess the quality of employment (not just the quantity) when evaluating labour market and social conditions.