Long-term unemployment (% of total unemployment)

Definition: Long-term unemployment refers to the number of people with continuous periods of unemployment extending for a year or longer, expressed as a percentage of the total unemployed.

Description: The map below shows how Long-term unemployment (% of total unemployment) varies by country. The shade of the country corresponds to the magnitude of the indicator. The darker the shade, the higher the value. The country with the highest value in the world is Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a value of 90.50. The country with the lowest value in the world is Korea, with a value of 0.40.

Source: International Labour Organization, Key Indicators of the Labour Market database.

See also: Country ranking, Time series comparison

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Development Relevance: While short periods of joblessness are of less concern, especially when unemployed persons are covered by unemployment insurance schemes or similar forms of support, prolonged periods of unemployment bring with them many undesirable effects, particularly loss of income and diminishing employability of the jobseeker. Moreover, short-term unemployment may even be viewed as desirable when it allows time for jobless persons to find optimal employment in line with the jobseeker's skills set and capabilities; also, in employment systems where workers can be temporarily laid off and then called back, short spells of unemployment allow employers to weather temporary declines in business activity. Reducing the length of unemployment spells is a key element in many strategies to reduce overall unemployment. Long-duration unemployment is undesirable, especially in circumstances where unemployment results from difficulties in matching supply and demand because of demand deficiency. The longer a person is unemployed, the lower his or her chance of finding a job. Drawing income support for the period of unemployment certainly diminishes economic hardship, but financial support does not last indefinitely. In any case, unemployment insurance coverage is often insufficient and not available to every unemployed person; the most likely non-recipients are persons entering or re-entering the labour market. Eligibility criteria and the extent of coverage, as well as the very existence of insurance, vary widely across countries. Unemployment and total employment are the broadest indicators of economic activity as reflected by the labor market. The International Labour Organization(ILO) defines the unemployed as members of the economically active population who are without work but available for and seeking work, including people who have lost their jobs or who have voluntarily left work. Some unemployment is unavoidable. At any time some workers are temporarily unemployed - between jobs as employers look for the right workers and workers search for better jobs. Such unemployment, often called frictional unemployment, results from the normal operation of labor markets. In many developing countries women work on farms or in other family enterprises without pay and others work in or near their homes, mixing work and family activities during the day. Labor force statistics by gender is important to monitor gender disparities in unemployment patterns. In many developed economies, women have been increasingly acquiring higher education that has led to better-compensated, longer-term careers rather than lower-skilled, shorter-term jobs. However, access to good- paying occupations for women remains unequal in many occupations and countries around the world.

Limitations and Exceptions: Data on long-term unemployment are often collected in household labour force surveys. Some countries obtain the data from administrative records, such as those of employment exchanges or unemployment insurance schemes. In this case, data are less likely to be available by sex; moreover, since many insurance schemes are limited in their coverage, administrative data are likely to yield different distributions of unemployment duration. In addition, the use of administrative data reduces the likelihood that ratios can be calculated using a statistically consistent labour force base. Therefore, all the data for this indicator come from labour force surveys, alternative sources having been eliminated as likely to cause inconsistency across the countries for which data are provided. Labor force surveys generally yield the most comprehensive data because they include groups not covered in other unemployment statistics, particularly people seeking work for the first time. These surveys generally use a definition of unemployment that follows the international recommendations more closely than that used by other sources and therefore generate statistics that are more comparable internationally. But the age group, geographic coverage, and collection methods could differ by country or change over time within a country. For detailed information, consult the original source. While data from household labour force surveys make international comparisons easier, they are not perfect. Questionnaire design, survey timing, differences in the age groups covered and other issues affecting comparability, mean that care is required in interpreting cross-country differences in levels of unemployment. Also, users will want to know something about the nature of unemployment insurance coverage in countries of interest to them, as substantial differences in such coverage - especially the lack of it altogether - can have a profound effect on differences in long-term unemployment. It should also be acknowledged that the length of time that a person has been unemployed is, in general, more difficult to measure than many other statistics, particularly when the data are derived from labour force surveys. When unemployed persons are interviewed, their ability to recall with any degree of precision the length of time that they have been jobless diminishes significantly as the period of joblessness extends. Thus, as it nears a full year, it is quite easy to say "one year", when in reality the respondent may have been unemployed between 10 and 14 months. If the household respondent is a proxy for the unemployed person, the specific knowledge and the ability to recall are reduced even further. Moreover, as the jobless period lengthens, not only is the likelihood of accurate recall reduced, the jobless period is also more likely to have been interrupted by limited periods of work or spells of discouragement, but either this is forgotten over time or the unemployed person may not consider that work period as relevant to his or her "real"unemployment problem. The ILO definition of unemployment notwithstanding, reference periods, the criteria for people considered to be seeking work, and the treatment of people temporarily laid off or seeking work for the first time vary across countries. In many developing countries it is especially difficult to measure employment and unemployment in agriculture. The timing of a survey, for example, can maximize the effects of seasonal unemployment in agriculture. And informal sector employment is difficult to quantify where informal activities are not tracked.

Statistical Concept and Methodology: The standard definition of long-term unemployment covers all unemployed persons with continuous periods of unemployment extending for a year or longer (52 weeks and over), expressed as percentage of total unemployment. The standard definition of unemployed persons is those individuals without work, seeking work in a recent past period, and currently available for work. Persons who did not look for work but have an arrangements for a future job are counted as unemployed. It is the labour force or the economically active portion of the population that serves as the base for this indicator, not the total population.

Aggregation method: Weighted average

Periodicity: Annual

General Comments: Relevance to gender indicator: Even though, in most countries, long-term unemployment rate is higher for men than women, the repercussion of long-term unemployment is likely to be more pronounced for women.