Miguel Schincariol / AFP / Getty Images

UN chief alarmed by rising global unemployment

UN labor agency projects the number of jobless will increase by nearly 2.3 million in 2016 and 1.1 million in 2017

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman said Wednesday that projections for rising global unemployment over the next two years are "alarming" and the U.N. chief will keep pushing for job opportunities, especially for youths.

The comments from deputy spokesman Farhan Haq were in response to a new report from the International Labor Organization (ILO), the U.N. labor agency, projecting that the number of unemployed people will increase by nearly 2.3 million in 2016 and 1.1 million in 2017 as a result of the global economic slowdown last year.

Haq said Ban has been raising the need for new jobs in discussions with business leaders and others at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week.

According to the report from the Geneva-based ILO, the number of unemployed people reached 197.1 million in 2015 — nearly 1 million more than in 2014 and over 27 million more than before the global financial crisis in 2008, which ignited the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

The increase in job seekers in 2015 occurred mainly in emerging and developing countries — and emerging economies are expected to see an increase in unemployment in the next two years, especially in Asia, Latin America and commodity-producing nations in the Middle East and Africa, the ILO report said.

The two emerging economies predicted to contribute the most to unemployment rolls in the next two years are Brazil, adding 700,000 people, and China, adding 800,000 people, it said.

ILO Director General Guy Ryder said Tuesday in Geneva that "the significant slowdown in emerging economies coupled with a sharp decline in commodity prices is having a dramatic effect on the world of work."

He called for urgent action "to boost the number of decent work opportunities." Otherwise, he warned, "we risk intensified social tensions."

The influx of refugees into Europe will present short-term challenges, but in the longer term the migrants will help to counter skills shortages and mitigate risks associated with low population growth, the report said.

On a positive note, the ILO said unemployment has declined in developed countries and most major developed economies "will see rates stabilize or continue to show modest improvements" in the next two years.

But the report said "vulnerable employment" — poor jobs with low and highly volatile earnings and no benefits — "remains a pressing issue worldwide."

"Vulnerable employment accounts for 1.5 billion people, or over 46 percent of total employment," the report said. "In both southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, over 70 percent of workers are in vulnerable employment."

In the coming years, the ILO said, vulnerable employment is expected to remain at around 46 percent globally, and a major challenge will be in emerging economies where the number of vulnerable workers is projected to grow by some 25 million over the next three years.

Wire services

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