Inside Story
Unemployment in the age of austerity
An estimated 196 million people were unemployed at the end of 2011, but are austerity measures partly to blame?
Last Modified: 01 May 2012 09:28

A new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) entitled "Preventing a Deeper Jobs Crisis" has painted a miserable picture of the global jobs market and blamed cutbacks for the big slowdown.

"The first thing [the US] did right was to tackle the banking problems upfront. In Europe we refused to recognise, particularly in the eurozone, the scale of the problem … so now we have ended up with the perfect storm."

- Sony Kapoor, the managing director of Re-Define

The report points to an "alarming" situation in the global employment market - a market which shows no immediate sign of recovery.

Crucially, the ILO was critical of the austerity measures taken by Europe's economies, saying not only that they had failed to bring down budget deficits but that they had, in fact, hurt economic growth, and hit the jobs market as a result.

An estimated 196 million people were unemployed worldwide at the end of last year, and that figure is expected to rise to 202 million this year.

The ILO has warned of a "new and more problematic phase" emerging in the global labour market. It foresees big problems with youth unemployment, which is rising in both developed and developing economies and is already a trend in parts of the Middle East and North Africa - with far-reaching implications.

"The question really is not whether its growth or austerity, there needs to be a balance between the two … the question is at what pace do you progress with this austerity."

- Raoul Ruparel, the head of economic research at Open Europe

Then there is the prediction that advanced economies, especially those in Europe, will not get back to the pre-crisis employment levels of 2008 for another four-and-a-half years - about two years later than previously predicted.

Unless there is a change in policy direction, the ILO says the jobs market will remain like this until the end of 2016 and that economic growth may slow even further.

So, how much worse will the global unemployment situation get before it gets better? Is there any guarantee of an improvement?

Joining presenter Kamahl Santamaria on Inside Story to discuss these issues are: Raymond Torres, the director of the Institute for International Labour Studies at the ILO; Raoul Ruparel, the economic research head at the Open Europe think tank; and Sony Kapoor, the managing director of Re-Define, an international think tank offering advice to policymakers on economic and financial matters.

"One very important policy which has [surely] aggravated the situation is the turn to austerity measures…there was no growth, investment and employment strategy that goes hand-in-hand with fiscal austerity."

- Raymond Torres, the director of the ILO's Institute for International Labour Studies


  • Spain has hit a record unemployment rate of 24.4 per cent
  • Greece's unemployment rate stands at 21.8 per cent
  • The UK, one of the world's top 10 economies, has a youth unemployment rate of 22 per cent - almost three times that of Germany
  • Italy, the third largest eurozone economy, has a jobless rate of 9.3 per cent


  • The ILO says the world needs to create 600 million jobs over the next 10 years
  • Unemployment grew by 27 million since the start of the economic crisis
  • More than 40 per cent of job-seekers have been unemployed for more than a year
  • The youth unemployment rate worldwide stands at 12.7 per cent
  • In 2011, an estimated 74.8 million youths were jobless
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