Understanding Unemployment

According to the International Labour Organization, global unemployment is 5% -- the lowest level in decades. That translates to about 172 million people who aren't working. This figure feels low when you consider other numbers: Hunger affects more than 800 million people; extreme poverty affects 740 million; and illiteracy affects 775 million.

As per Gallup, of the more than 7 billion people on Earth, about 5 billion are adults. Remove students, homemakers, retired people, and those who aren't working but aren't looking for work -- and you have the "global workforce." That's over 3 billion people. The "unemployed" are those who are not working but are looking for work. That is how the ILO arrives at 5%.

The problem lies in how the self-employed are counted. Half of the self-employed -- or nearly 378 million people -- live on less than $2 a day. When you add them to the technically unemployed, and the part-time workers who want full-time jobs (about 430 million), "real" unemployment affects 32% of the global workforce -- not 5%. If that were the world's statistic, almost 1.7 billion people would be “unemployed."

But simply reclassifying people won't help policymakers. We need a metric that incorporates the quality of people's jobs -- not just whether they work 30 hours and get a paycheck.

Another report released by Gallup looks at the percentage of people who have 1) "good jobs" -- the 1.5 billion people who work 30 hours a week for an employer -- and 2) "great jobs," those who are engaged at work.

People who are engaged at work or, do their best, because not only they have a strong sense of mission and purpose, are adequately skilled but are also supported by the needed organizational resources. Their metrics have been tested in over 160 countries, and also have also been validated against traditional economic indicators, such as productivity and profit. Using this metric, only 5% of the world has a great job viz. a truly engaging job.

These metrics indicate a failure of the individual in making the right decisions, existing educational systems to provide the necessary skills, the organizations for providing the necessary resources and environment to facilitate employment engagement.

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