Emerging nations—where, on average, employment is rising, income inequality decreasing and the middle class rapidly expanding—are recovering from the global recession faster than developed countries, according to an International Labor Organization (ILO) report released today.

Based on current trends, the “World of Work Report: 2013” forecasts that employment rates across emerging and developing economies will return to pre-recession levels in 2015, while employment rates in advanced economies will only return to pre-crisis status after 2017.

Yet the report also finds that more than 30 million jobs are needed to return employment to the pre-recession level and predicts that nearly 208 million women and men will be unemployed in 2015, rising to 214 million people  by 2018. Today, slightly more than the 200 million people are jobless. “Almost everywhere, young people and women find it difficult to obtain jobs that match their skills and aspirations,” according to the report, which is subtitled, “Repairing the Economic and Social Fabric.”

“We need a global recovery focused on jobs and productive investment, combined with better social protection for the poorest and most vulnerable groups. And we need to pay serious attention to closing the inequality gap that is widening in so many parts of the world,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

Behind the overall national averages, the report paints a less optimistic picture for millions of workers in emerging and developing nations.

• Employment rates in 2012 surpassed pre-crisis rates in 13 of 28 countries with available information. Of the 28, only four developing economies (Jamaica, Jordan, Morocco and Sri Lanka) showed a continuous decline in employment rates at the start of the crisis. In the 11 remaining countries, the employment rates have showed some recovery, but the increase was not sufficient to surpass pre-crisis levels.

• Although the size of the middle-income group has increased, there are three times as many workers on the brink of poverty, whose numbers rose from 1.1 million in 1999 to 1.9 million in 2010, mostly in low- and low middle-income economies.

• Even though global investment by emerging economies increased, accounting for nearly 47 percent of global investment in 2012 compared with only 27 percent in 2000, investment in this group has been stagnant when India and Indonesia are excluded.

Global investment is essential to improving employment, according to the report. Further, it finds that higher minimum wage levels and/or improved compliance in following minimum-wage laws have tended to boost the relative position of low-paid workers. Minimum wages have been accompanied by reductions in inequality at the bottom end of economic distribution, especially in India, Mali, the Philippines, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam, the report finds. In Brazil and Peru, improved minimum wages appear to have resulted in an expansion of the middle part of the wage distribution.

The report highlights case studies of successful economic initiatives, including those launched by the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a Solidarity Center partner. The group has addressed the welfare of women working in India’s informal sector by establishing programs to foster health care, income security and empowerment. The organization provides members with health education and preventative health care, such child immunization.

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