Graduates in poor countries more likely to be unemployed, ILO finds

19 Nov 15

Better-educated people in lower-income countries can struggle to find suitable work, according to the International Labour Organisation.


The 9th edition of the ILO’s Key Indicators of the Labour Market, released on Monday, said a “mismatch” between the number of skilled people and jobs matching their competencies and expectations meant they are more likely to be unemployed.

While in most-high income countries, university and college graduates have better chances of employment, higher earnings and better working conditions, graduates in low- and lower-middle income economies are more likely to be among the unemployed than less well-educated workers.

Rosina Grammarano, of the ILO’s department of statistics, said if left unaddressed this problem “may work to put a limit on economic growth and development”.

According to the report, the global labour force is becoming increasingly educated. Only two out of the 64 countries that contributed data to the ILO had not registered an increase in the share of the labour force with a tertiary education over the past 15 years.

At the same time, there has been a drop in the proportion of workers with only a primary-level education or less.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • Countries where the number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) has increased are all high-income economies badly hit by the global financial crisis, such as Greece, Ireland and Spain.
  • The level of those who are NEET is decreasing in upper-middle and low-income countries like Bulgaria and Cambodia respectively, although a persistent gender gap remains in the developing world, with the amount of young women who are NEET much higher.
  • Middle-income countries have registered the fastest productivity growth in the past 15 years and employ the most workers, with 72% of the world’s labour force employed in middle-income countries compared to 20% in high-income economies and 8% in low-income economies.
  • The number of working poor declined by 479 million between 2000 and 2015, with virtually all of this decline occurring in middle-income countries. 

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