Global economic growth has rebounded and is expected to remain stable but low
Global economic growth increased to 3.6 per cent in 2017, after hitting a six-year low of 3.2 per cent
in 2016. The recovery was broad based, driven by expansions in developing, emerging and developed
countries alike. Future growth is likely to stay below 4 per cent, as economic activity normalizes in
most major economies without significant stimulus and fixed investment remains at a moderate level.
Global unemployment remains elevated at more than 190 million
The latest developments in global unemployment are also mixed. According to the ILO’s new estimation,
based on improved data sets and methodologies, the global unemployment rate is expected to
fall slightly to 5.5 per cent in 2018 (from 5.6 per cent in 2017), marking a turnaround after three years
of rising unemployment rates. However, with a growing number of people entering the labour market
to seek employment, the total number of unemployed is expected to remain stable in 2018, above
192 million. In 2019, the global unemployment rate is expected to remain essentially unchanged,
whereas the number of unemployed is projected to grow by 1.3 million.
Vulnerable employment is on the rise
With these improvements in employment projected to be modest, the number of workers in vulnerable
forms of employment (own-account workers and contributing family workers) is likely to increase
in the years to come. Globally, the significant progress achieved in the past in reducing vulnerable
employment has essentially stalled since 2012. In 2017, around 42 per cent of workers (or 1.4 billion)
worldwide are estimated to be in vulnerable forms of employment, while this share is expected to
remain particularly high in developing and emerging countries, at above 76 per cent and 46 per cent,
respectively. Worryingly, the current projection suggests that the trend is set to reverse, with the number
of people in vulnerable employment projected to increase by 17 million per year in 2018 and 2019.
The pace of working poverty reduction is slowing
Similarly, the global labour market has seen only weak progress in the area of working poverty. In 2017,
extreme working poverty remained widespread, with more than 300 million workers in emerging and
developing countries having a per capita household income or consumption of less than US$1.90 (PPP)
per day. Overall, progress in reducing working poverty is too slow to keep pace with the growing labour
force in developing countries, where the number of people in extreme working poverty is expected to
exceed 114 million in 2018, or 40 per cent of all employed people.
Emerging countries, on the other hand, achieved significant progress in reducing extreme working
poverty, which is expected to affect less than 8 per cent (around 190 million) of workers there in 2017.
The incidence of extreme poverty should continue to fall, translating into a reduction in the number
of extreme working poor by 10 million per year in 2018 and 2019. Nevertheless, moderate working
poverty, in which workers live on an income of between US$1.90 and US$3.10 per day in PPP, remains
widespread, affecting 430 million workers in emerging and developing countries in 2017.
Significant variations in employment outcomes continue to exist between regions and countries
The world continues to experience diverse trends in employment outcomes. Developed countries are
expected to enter their sixth consecutive year of decreasing unemployment rates, falling to 5.5 per
cent in 2018, the lowest rate since 2007. Yet many countries continue to report high rates of labour
underutilization, with large shares of discouraged workers and growing incidence of involuntary parttime
By contrast, emerging countries have experienced a significant increase in unemployment rates
between 2014 and 2017, driven by major economic downturns, in part due to the commodity price
slump in many large economies, such as Brazil and the Russian Federation. The year 2018 marks a
turning point, as the unemployment rate is expected to fall to 5.5 per cent (from 5.6 per cent in 2017),
which would translate into an increase in the number of unemployed in emerging countries of around
0.4 million in 2018 and 1.2 million in 2019.
Unemployment in developing countries is expected to increase by half a million per year in both
2018 and 2019, with the unemployment rate remaining at around 5.3 per cent. For many developing
and emerging countries, however, persistent poor-quality employment and working poverty pose the