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  • In 2012, one in three workers worldwide – some 1.1 billion people – were unemployed, live in poverty or both.
  • Global unemployment stands at roughly 200 million, up 27 million since 2008.
  • Youth unemployment (ages 15-24) has soared, with an estimated 75 million youth out-of-work in 2011, up 6 per cent since 2007.

In addition to the challenges associated with the 200 million people out of work globally in 2012, some 400 million new workers will enter the job market over the next decade, most of them young people. At 12.7 per cent, the global youth unemployment rate stands a full percentage point higher than the pre-2008 crisis level. Globally, young people are nearly three times as likely as adults to be unemployed. On the bright side, of the still 900 million working poor in 2011, roughly 456 million were living in extreme poverty (under US$1.25 a day) ― down 38 million since 2007 and 233 million since 2000.

Meanwhile, the convergence of living standards across countries has been slowing. The labour productivity gap between developed and developing nations – an important indicator for the convergence of income levels across countries – has narrowed over the past two decades, but remains substantial: an output per worker of US$72,900 (developed countries) versus US$13,600 (developing).


In 2006, the Council organized its High-level Segment on the theme, “Creating an environment at the national and international levels conducive to generating full and productive employment and decent work for all, and its impact on sustainable development”. In 2012, ECOSOC will return to the issue of employment with the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) devoted to jobs and growth.

UN System

  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the international organization responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labour standards. It is the only 'tripartite' United Nations agency that brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to jointly shape policies and programmes promoting Decent Work for all. This unique arrangement gives the ILO an edge in incorporating 'real world' knowledge about employment and work.

The ILO has four main strategic objectives:

  1. Promote and realize standards and fundamental principles and rights at work
  2. Create greater opportunities for women and men to decent employment and income
  3. Enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for all
  4. Strengthen tripartism and social dialogue

Further reading