Only one-fourth of the world’s workers have stable jobs, according to a United Nations report last month. The International Labor Organization (ILO) revealed a worldwide shift from full-time employment toward short-term contracts, irregular hours and unspecified conditions for the majority of the world’s workforce. Workers around the world have less stability and less security than ever before.
The ILO’s report examines more than 180 countries and covers more than 84 percent of the world’s workforce. The study found that most people hold informal jobs or have only temporary or short-term contracts, while others are engaged in unpaid family work, particularly women, who remain lower paid than men. Among the small percentage of workers with a regular salary, only 42 percent have permanent contracts. The concept of lifetime employment has disappeared over the recent years of economic crisis.
The study also shows that many workers continue to work but still find themselves in poverty. Nearly a quarter of the world’s workers last year lived with their families on less than $2 (¥250) a day. Ten percent of the global workforce lives on earnings of less than $1.25 per day. These low wages may seem very different from conditions in Japan’s economy, but the effects of instability and poverty still affect this nation. Wages in Japan can be driven down by the possibility of exporting jobs by internationalized companies.
Among the many terrible results, the survey found that more than 200 million people were jobless last year. That was 30 million more than before the worldwide financial crisis started in 2008. Because of the increasing interconnection of national economies, instability in one country has the potential to affect everyone, not just those in the worst-off countries. Global solutions are important, not just national solutions.
Overall employment has found some progress from two decades ago when records started to be kept worldwide. More people have a higher standard of living. However, highly insecure part-time work has become the norm for the majority of people in the world today, and that is not progress in terms of the impact on the daily lives of most people.
To its discredit, Japan has followed this trend. More and more of its workers are getting stuck with short-term contracts and nonregular employment. Such working conditions mean that even in a stability-loving society such as Japan, stability is an ideal, not a reality.
The fallout from economic instability unfairly hits workers at the lower end of the economic spectrum, but still affects everyone. That is not a system that any worker at any level of stability would support. The 25 percent of workers who have solid jobs around the world may count themselves lucky, but maybe not for long.