On Monday the International Labour Organisation (ILO) predicted that over the next 12 months the global unemployment rate could reach a record high of 120 million. Noting that young people were disproportionately hit, the ILO also commented that, while 1 million jobs had been shed in advanced economies over the past year, 3 million were lost in developing economies, despite their greater economic resilience.
The ILO’s pessimistic forecast is reflected in GlobeScan’s most recent polling on this issue. Across 22 countries, 59 percent of people agreed that unemployment was a “very serious” issue - alongside crime, the highest figure of all issues rated. Indeed, concern about unemployment was five points greater than concern about the economic situation.
Despite this and the ILO’s worries that Eurozone problems may be spilling over to the rest of the world, concern over joblessness has actually dropped markedly in many countries. Turkey, Brazil and Canada have all seen sharp drops in concern since 2009, as has Germany, which has thus far been relatively successful in withstanding the European economic crisis. Even France - where unemployment rose for the 19th consecutive month in December – has been seeing a fall in concern over this issue in recent years.
The rising optimism in the Eurozone’s two largest economies is at odds with attitudes in fellow EU members Spain and the UK. In Spain, 91 percent described unemployment as “very serious” – a figure that has remained consistently high since the onset of the crisis. In Britain, meanwhile, despite employment reaching a record high, there has been a modest rise in worry since 2009. China, the US and India have seen slight falls in concern as their economies have continued to grow.
But with little sign of a return to sustained growth in most of the world’s leading economies, it seems likely that unemployment will remain at or near the top of the list of public concerns for some time to come.