WESO Trends 2024

World Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2024: ILO Director-General’s remarks

While presenting the latest edition of the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2024 to the press, ILO Director-General, Gilbert F. Houngbo explained how growing inequalities and stagnant productivity are causes for concern.

Statement | 10 January 2024
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for joining me today, to launch the 2024 Trends edition of the ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook report.

Let me start by saying that some of the data in the WESO Trends is encouraging – notably on growth and employment.

However, deeper analysis reveals that labour market imbalances, unfortunately, are growing. And, in a time of multiple and interacting global crises, this is eroding progress towards greater social justice.

Let’s look first at unemployment. This fell to its lowest level since the start of the pandemic. In 2023 it stood at 5.1 per cent, globally.

Employment growth and labour force participation rates are also encouraging. And the rate of working poverty and informal work – which is work that does not have a formal contractual basis – has continued to edge back to pre-pandemic rates.

But this year – 2024 – we don’t expect to see these figures improve much. Indeed, our projections are that global unemployment will actually increase this year – only by 0.1 per cent, but even that amounts to 2.2 million people.

And, if we take a closer look at the details, we can see that there are still significant shortages of decent work – jobs in which employees are secure and treated with respect.

Please allow me to provide a few figures to demonstrate why we are concerned about these trends.

In 2023, 189 million people were officially recorded as being unemployed, worldwide. However, more than double that number – 435 million people to be specific – wanted employment but could not find it. This is what we call the ‘jobs gap’. The WESO Trends report finds that this jobs gap rate was 11.1 per cent – more than two times the 5.1 per cent global unemployment rate.

We also estimate that the number of workers in the informal economy rose above the two billion mark in 2023 - to 2 billion and 19 million, to be exact.

We do expect the share of informal jobs to decline a little in 2024. We remain deeply concerned however about the low quality of many of those jobs because good quality, decent work is a pre-requisite for sustainable development and building social justice.

In addition, the absolute number of workers living in extreme poverty has not fallen. When we take purchasing power parity into account, we see that more than 241 million workers are now living in households on less than 2.15 US dollars per person per day.

Productivity growth and living standards have also not improved. What is particularly worrying is that this is happening in spite of technological progress that was widely projected to boost both productivity and quality of life.

Another concerning trend shown in today’s WESO report is the growing disparities among countries and between different economic sectors.

In some places and industries there is an overall shortage of workers. In others, employers can’t find workers with the skills that they need.

At the same time, many workers cannot find enough decent employment in sectors and areas of work for which they are skilled.

What this means is that we are seeing growing imbalances in our economic and social systems. And these imbalances pose a serious challenge to the goal of an equitable and just transition to a sustainable future.

So, to sum up:

The WESO Trends finds that major deficits in decent work – such as insufficient pay and poor job quality – are still all-too-prevalent.

This should concern us all. Not only because it threatens our economic well-being, but also because decent work is an essential component of greater social justice. And we need greater social justice if we are to build a future that is sustainable, equitable, and peaceful.

Thank you so much.