10 things to know about the global labour force

Briefing papers
April 2017

Creating more and better jobs is frequently identified as a top priority in global development, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are no exception.

Nearly six million participants of the MY World Survey, a UN survey which influenced and informed the SDGs, identified 'better job opportunities' as key for their and their families' futures. As a result, jobs have found their space in SDG8: 'Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all', and are referenced in several other goals.

10 things to know about the global labour force examines the number of people inside and outside the global labour force, illustrating who they are, where they are and the scale of the global jobs challenge, drawing attention to the 2 billion people of working age classified as outside the labour force, many of whom want to work. Surprisingly, there has been little focus on this group. Less surprisingly, about two-thirds are women, and a very high share of them are in the Asia-Pacific region. Their need for jobs will add significantly to the challenges of job creation and of meeting the SDGs.

5.49 billion people in the world are of working age
3.45 billion people are in the global labour force
More men than women are in paid jobs or self-employed
Nearly 800 million workers are poor
Globally, 1.4 billion people work in vulnerable jobs
80% of the world's vulnerable workers are in middle-income countries
2 billion people of working age are outside the global labour force
Over two-thirds of the 2 billion are women
Over half of those 'outside the labour force' are in the Asia-Pacific region
By 2021, only 180 million new jobs are projected to be created