Global unemployment is projected to decrease slightly this year, even as labour market inequalities persist, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This marks a reversal from its earlier forecast of an increase. However, the agency warns of "slow progress" in addressing labour market inequalities.

The United Nations agency now anticipates a global unemployment rate of 4.9% in 2024, after initially predicting a rise to 5.2% from 5% in 2023. It also predicts the rate will remain at 4.9% in 2025.

Despite this positive adjustment, the ILO highlights persistent labour market inequalities, especially affecting women in low-income countries. The report reveals that 183 million people are actively seeking work and available for employment, while 402 million people are jobless but desire employment.

The Geneva-based UN agency estimates that the ‘jobs gap’ - which measures the number of persons without a job but who want to work - stands at 402 million persons in 2024. This includes 183 million people who are counted as unemployed.

The findings indicate that women are disproportionately impacted by job scarcity, with 22.8% of women in low-income countries wanting a job but not working, compared to 15.3% of men. In high-income countries, the rates are 9.7% for women and 7.3% for men. The report also notes that these figures only scratch the surface, as women are more likely than men to leave the labour force entirely.

Globally, it's estimated that 45.6% of working-age women are employed in 2024, compared to 69.2% of men, the report adds.

In April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised its 2024 global growth forecast upwards to 3.2%, an increase from the 3.1% predicted in January, primarily driven by a more optimistic outlook for the U.S. economy.

"Despite our efforts to reduce global inequalities, the labour market remains an uneven playing field," ILO director-general Gilbert F. Houngbo states in a release.

"To achieve a sustainable recovery whose benefits are shared by all,we must work towards inclusive policies that take into consideration the needs of all workers. We must place inclusion and social justice at the core of our policies and institutions." Houngbo adds.

More broadly, since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, efforts to reduce poverty and informal employment have decelerated compared to the progress seen in the previous decade, it says.

"The number of workers in informal employment has grown from approximately 1.7 billion in 2005 to 2.0 billion in 2024," the report says.

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