The many costs of being one of the long-term unemployed

For those who’ve been searching for work for more than a year, the risk of long-term social exclusion is real, explains ILO expert Steven Tobin.

Audio | 17 April 2015

In advanced economies like the European Union and United States, long-term unemployment is becoming a persistent problem.

The International Labour Organization’s World Employment and Social Outlook (WESO Trends) for 2015 says that in the EU, for example, in the second half of 2014, long-term unemployment was about 50 per cent.

That’s a steep jump from 38.5 per cent in the same quarter of 2008. About 12 million people have been out of work and looking for a job for one year or more.

For these millions of people, there is more at stake than the loss of income, according to the Team Leader in the ILO's Research Department, Steven Tobin: “After a sustained period of absence from the labour market often times a stigma develops, making it even harder for the individual to return to productive employment and raises the risk of exclusion and poverty.”

In developing countries, notably in Asia, the problem of long- term unemployment has other repercussions: “Here the challenge is to ensure job creation continues to keep pace with the growing number of labour market entrants and that these jobs match their expectations and skills profile – the two of which have grown in parallel in recent years.”

So how can the situation be turned around, to get people back to work, both in developed and developing economies?

Tobin says the key to deal with long term unemployment lies in policy: “We need to make every effort we can to keep these people attached to the job market through a combination of income support and employment-oriented support.”

Reporting for the ILO, this is Carla Drysdale.