Unemployment, total (% of total labor force) (modeled ILO estimate)

Definition: Unemployment refers to the share of the labor force that is without work but available for and seeking employment.

Description: The map below shows how Unemployment, total (% of total labor force) (modeled ILO estimate) 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 Mauritania, with a value of 31.00. The country with the lowest value in the world is Qatar, with a value of 0.30.

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

See also: Country ranking, Time series comparison

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Development Relevance: 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. Changes in unemployment over time may reflect changes in the demand for and supply of labor; they may also reflect changes in reporting practices. Paradoxically, low unemployment rates can disguise substantial poverty in a country, while high unemployment rates can occur in countries with a high level of economic development and low rates of poverty. In countries without unemployment or welfare benefits people eke out a living in vulnerable employment. In countries with well-developed safety nets workers can afford to wait for suitable or desirable jobs. But high and sustained unemployment indicates serious inefficiencies in resource allocation. 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: There may be persons not currently in the labour market who want to work but do not actively "seek" work because they view job opportunities as limited, or because they have restricted labour mobility, or face discrimination, or structural, social or cultural barriers. The exclusion of people who want to work but are not seeking work (often called the "hidden unemployed" or "discouraged workers") is a criterion that will affect the count of both women and men although women may have a higher probability of being excluded from the count of unemployed because they suffer more from social barriers overall that impede them from meeting this criterion. There are situations where the conventional means of seeking work are of limited relevance - for example, in developing economies where the informal economy is rampant and where the labour force is largely self-employed. In such cases, the standard definition of unemployment would greatly undercount the untapped human resources of a country and would give a picture of the labour market that was more positive than reality would warrant.

Statistical Concept and Methodology: 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. The unemployment rates presented here are the ILO estimates from the ILO's Key Indicators of the Labour Market database. The ILO estimates are harmonized to account for inconsistencies resulting from data source, definition, reference period, coverage, age group, and collection methodologies. The adjusted rates are based on household labour force sample surveys and includes both nationally reported and imputed data. Caution should be used when comparing the ILO estimates against other national estimates such as employment data.

Aggregation method: Weighted average

Periodicity: Annual

General Comments: The unemployment rates presented here are the ILO estimates from the ILO's Key Indicators of the Labour Market database. These harmonized estimates use strict data selection criteria and enhanced methods to ensure comparability across countries and over time. (Note: Before April 2014, this code was used for national estimates, which are also now available in the WDI database under a different code.) Relevance to gender indicator: Women tend to be excluded from the unemployment count for various reasons. Women suffer more from discrimination and from structural, social, and cultural barriers that impede them from seeking work. Also, women are often responsible for the care of children and the elderly and for household affairs. They may not be available for work during the short reference period, as they need to make arrangements before starting work. Furthermore, women are considered to be employed when they are working part-time or in temporary jobs, despite the instability of these jobs or their active search for more secure employment.