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The International Labour Organisation has warned that a jobs crisis caused by the slowdown in the global economy threatens a wave of widespread social unrest engulfing both rich and poor countries.
Highlighting the darkening prospects for employment, the Geneva-based ILO said policymakers were running out of time to head off a double-dip recession in labour markets.
"We have reached the moment of truth", said Raymond Torres, director of the ILO International Institute for Labour Studies to mark the publication of the organisation's World of Work report.
The study found that only half the 80m jobs needed to return employment to its pre-crisis levels were likely to be created over the next two years, and that the stalling of the global recovery was already leading to an increase in joblessness. Torres said: "We have a brief window of opportunity to avoid a major double-dip in employment."
In a new "social unrest" index, the ILO said there was growing unhappiness over the lack of jobs and anger over perceptions that the burden of the crisis is not being shared fairly. It noted that in over 45 of the 118 countries examined, the risk of social unrest is rising, with particular signs of tension in the EU, the Arab region and to a lesser extent Asia.
"The next few months will be crucial for avoiding a dramatic downturn in employment and a further significant aggravation of social unrest", the ILO report said. "The world economy, which had started to recover from the global crisis, has entered a new phase of economic weakening. Economic growth in major advanced economies has come to a halt and some countries have re-entered recession, notably in Europe." The report noted that even before the latest setback, the global situation was already "precarious", with 200m people unemployed worldwide.