A World of the Unemployed


Most experts worry that, as long as unemployment is above 6% in America, the U.S. economy cannot recover. The Fed even has set a target of 6.5% as a measure for when it will stop monetary support. The situation in much of Europe is too horrible to be put side by side against any American number, as unemployment in Spain and Greece have breached 25%. Based on Gallup information, even Greece could be the envy of much of the rest of the world.

The research firm reports:

Twenty-seven percent of the world's adults were employed full time for an employer in 2011, according to Gallup's new "Payroll to Population" metric. This new measure estimates the percentage of the entire 15 and older population - not just those currently in the workforce - who are employed full time for an employer for at least 30 hours per week.

As might be expected, the figure in North America is relatively high at 41%, which still seems too low to drive a robust recovery from a recession that, despite talk of a recovery based on a strict definition, has continued to hold back expansion. The European Union figure drops to 32%, based on Gallup. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the number is an unimaginable 12%, just a bit worse than the 18% in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Any discussion of Africa's lack of economic progress and promise has to be balanced against these employment numbers, which could take decades to erase.

Beyond Africa, the number of people out of work, by Gallup's definition is higher than most economists would admit. However, a person without a full-time job is just that, regardless of whose yardstick is used. The link of jobs to poverty, education and the ability for advancement against any of these has been established by economists for decades. And there is no case that these can be untethered.

Greece and Spain may be the benchmarks against which the developed world's jobless trough might be measured, but it does not tell anywhere close to the full story.


Methodology: Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with 187,119 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2011 in 148 countries and areas.

Douglas A. McIntyre

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