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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

World Jobless Rate Hits a Record 180 Million

GENEVA -- Unemployment around the world is likely to continue rising after reaching an estimated record 180 million in 2002, up more than 10 percent in two years, the International Labor Organization warned.

Women in export sectors such as textiles, and youth trying to get a first job, have been the hardest hit by the worsening economic situation, the United Nations agency said Friday.

Another 550 million "working poor" live on $1 or less a day, a return to heights last seen in 1998, according to the ILO report "Global Employment Trends."

"The world employment situation is deteriorating dramatically," said ILO director-general Juan Somavia.

"While tens of millions of people join the ranks of the unemployed and the working poor, uncertain prospects for a global economic recovery make a reversal of this trend unlikely in 2003," he added.

The unemployment rate has rocketed in Latin America and the Caribbean, but it has also risen in other regions as well like Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, the report said. Unemployment is nearly 10 percent in Latin America -- dragged down by Argentina -- and 18 percent in the Middle East and North Africa. In Southeast Asia, where exports have suffered from the information technology slump, it is 6.5 percent.

"Unlike in the past, the informal economy in developing countries was not able to absorb all those who could not find formal employment," the report said.

The informal sector employs some 1.6 billion people worldwide, more than the 1.2 billion who work in the formal sector.

The consequences of the continuing rise in unemployment could be dramatic, according to the ILO, which says at least 1 billion new jobs must be created during the next decade to meet the UN goal of reducing extreme poverty by 50 percent by the year 2015.

"The [UN] millennium development goal of halving poverty by 2015 is endangered," Claire Harasty, the report's author, told a news briefing.

"Secondly, there is a risk that an exacerbation of the alarming situation just described may lead to social instability throughout the world," she added.

A U.S.-led war against Iraq, predicted to send crude oil prices soaring from their current $32.70 a barrel, would create more jobless, according to Harasty and Rashid Amjad, acting director of ILO's employment strategy department.

"If investor confidence continues to drop because of a war ... that would also have grave consequences for unemployment," Harasty said.

In the Middle East and North Africa, where nearly a quarter of the workforce is unemployed in some countries, war could further aggravate the problems for young people.