Geneva - The planet's poorest nations such as Angola and
Ethiopia have largely failed to cash in on booming economic growth to create
the jobs needed to push their ballooning populations out of poverty, the UN
warned on Wednesday.
"Economic growth that does not create decent jobs in
sufficient quantities is unsustainable," said Mukhisa Kituyi, head of the
UN Conference on Trade and Development.
In its tri-annual review of the world's least developed
countries, or LDCs, UNCTAD said that the 49 countries on its list had jointly
seen strong economic growth over the past decade, but that there were too few
decent jobs to show for it.
This is a problem, since these countries, including 34 in
Africa, are set to see their already youthful populations double to 1.7-billion
by 2050, with an estimated 16-million people forecast to join their labour
markets each year until then.
LDCs saw their economies swell on average 7.5% per year from
2002 to 2008, but even then, the rate of job creation was only 2.9%, with some
of the most rapidly growing economies actually seeing their employment rate
In Africa's second largest oil exporter, Angola, the per
capita gross domestic product skyrocket nearly 92% during the period, while
employment sank 2.3%.
Angola is a good example of how many LDCs have focused too
narrowly on capital-intense but job-poor sectors like mineral extraction,
Kituyi told reporters in Geneva, urging such countries to dramatically shift
their growth and investment models.
A lost opportunity
Oil accounts for nearly 97% of Angolan exports, driving the
GDP per capita up to around $10 000 and making Luanda the world's most
expensive city for expats, even as the official unemployment rate stands at 30%.
Ethiopia, by contrast, appears to be investing heavily in
creating jobs, although probably not enough to meet the needs of an ever
expanding labour force.
The country, which is bracing for the number of new entrants
to its labour market each year to jump from 1.4-million in 2005 to 3.2-million
in 2050, is rapidly expanding its infrastructure.
It is building about 6 000km of asphalt roads, 2 000km of
railway lines and building hydroelectric power plants, Kituyi pointed out.
"The whole country is a construction site," he
enthused, saying that the public sector was crucial to kick-start job creation.
Many LDCs are not investing enough in areas that generate
employment, like manufacturing, technology and upgrading the agriculture
sector, warned Taffere Tesfachew, head of the UN agency's LDC programme.
The failure to create enough decent jobs when LDC economies
were booming could mark "a lost opportunity", not only to cut
unemployment but also to significantly reduce poverty, the UNCTAD report said.
The prospects for job creation in the LDCs certainly appear
"The numbers are frightening"
Growth has slowed to around 5% and the countries'
commodities-dominated exports stalled to just 0.6% last year after soaring 25% between
2010 and 2011.
"If during that growth they could not create
employment, and all projections are that commodity-led growth is [declining],
when will they create the jobs?" Kituyi asked.
The question is pressing: about 60% of people living in the
world's most impoverished countries are currently under the age of 25, meaning
that these nations will need to create some 95-million new jobs by 2020, and
another 160-million by 2030, to absorb all the new entrants to their labour
The average unemployment rate across the 49 LDCs last year
stood at 5.6%, but Kituyi said that youth unemployment in many countries was
double the official figure.
And many of those considered employed were barely earning
enough to survive in the informal sector, with a full 41% of those working in
2010 earning under $1.25 a day.
"The numbers are very frightening," Tesfachew