DESK REVIEWS | 01.03.06. Employment and unemployment rates

DESK REVIEW | 01.03.06. Employment and unemployment rates

Government data published in May 2019 showed that 12.7% of the population are currently unemployed, with the highest concentration among young people, women, black, and mixed-race individuals. The unemployment rate in the age group 14 to 17 years reached 44.5%. Among those aged 18 to 24 years, the proportion of unemployed reached 31.9% in the Northeast region. However, the largest proportion of unemployment is concentrated among the population aged 25-59 (57.2%), followed by people aged 18 to 24 (31.8%), adolescents (8.3%) and people aged 60+ (2.6%). Women made up the majority (52.6%) of the unemployed population and the population outside the workforce (64.6%). Among men, the unemployment rate was 10.9% in the first quarter 2019, while among women it was 14.9% (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, 2019j).


Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. (2019j, April 30). Desemprego sobe para 12,7% com 13,4 milhões de pessoas em busca de trabalho. IBGE – Agência de Notícias.

In 2018, the labour force statistics estimated that the unemployment rate was 2.8% (112.0 thousand people) and the underemployment rate was 1.1% (43.2 thousand people). The unemployment rates by gender for male and female were 3.2% and 2.9%, respectively (Census and Statistics Department, 2019i).


Census and Statistics Department. (2019i). Table E489: Land area, mid-year population and population density by District Council district. Retrieved from:

The unemployment rate for those aged 15 years and above in India was estimated to be 5.8% between 2018-2019 (Ministry of Labour and Employment, 2021). This fell to 4.8% in 2019-2020.

In the year 2019-2020, the labour force participation for those aged 15+ increased to 53.5% from 50.2% in 2018-2019 (Ministry of Labour and Employment, 2021).


Ministry of Labour and Employment. (2021). Employment Situation Improves. Government of India. Available from:

The unemployment rate in Indonesia was 5.4% in 2017 (CIA World Factbook, 2019). The World Bank estimates that total youth unemployment (15-24 years) as percentage of the labour force amounted to 15.84% in 2018 (World Bank, 2019b).

Employment in the informal economy, which means employment without formal arrangements, is estimated to make up over 60 per cent of the workforce (International Labour Organization (ILO), n.d.-a). This prevailing practice causes some difficulties in estimating employment and unemployment rates in Indonesia. Furthermore, as pointed out above (01.03.04) and further discussed under (01.04) the absence of social protection means that older people are often engaged in economic activity by formal or informal employment into very old age (Kidd et al., 2018).


CIA World Factbook. (2019). Indonesia.

International Labour Organization (ILO). (n.d.-a). Informal economy in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. Retrieved March 9, 2019, from–en/index.htm#banner

Kidd, S., Gelders, B., & Rahayu, S. K. (2018). Implementing Social Protection for the Elderly in Indonesia. Sosial Lansia/Elderly Brief – English Version.pdf

World Bank. (2019b). Unemployment, youth total (% of total labor force ages 15-24) (modeled ILO estimate) – Indonesia. World Development Indicators.

Employment (status, sector, and hours), conditions of work (wages, compensation costs, working poverty) and characteristics of job seekers (education, labour productivity) form some of the key indicators of labour market. Kenya’s bulging youth unemployment rate is more than 20%, primarily due to reduced education opportunities. This is also reflected in the general population where unemployment and under-employment are extremely high (about 40% of the population) with a higher rate of unemployment among women (2.9%) compared to men (2.6%) (Central Intelligence Agency, 2019; International Labour Organization (ILO), 2016). A third of those employed (with 83% of all employment opportunities provided by the informal sector) in Kenya work for more than 48 hours per week.


Central Intelligence Agency. (2019). The World Factbook: Africa – Kenya. .

International Labour Organization (ILO). (2016). Country profile.

Unemployment slightly decreased in the immediate years previous to the year 2018 when it was estimated that 60% of the economically active population were employed (formal, informal and self-employed). Within total working age population, women’s participation, while increasing, still lags compared to men and to women in other Latin American countries, with 43.6% of total women 15 years and older reported in the labour force compared to 77.7% of men[1] (STPS, 2019).

Informal employment[2] amounts to approximately 57% of total working population. However, out of 100 Mexican pesos generated in the country, 77 come from formal employment and 23 from the informal economy (INEGI, n.d.-a). In relation to the group of people employed in the informal sector (16.0 million in 2018), 14.9% were self-employed in agriculture (no income/pay, no benefits), 14.6% worked in paid domestic services, but with no social security benefits, 9.3% worked without pay, and the remaining 61.2% were wage earners but without social security benefits (INEGI, n.d.-b; 2020).

The working status of older adults in Mexico is relevant. According to the National Employment and Occupation Survey, in 2018, 34.1% of adults 60 years and older were employed, and of these, 49.6% were self-employed (INEGI, 2018a).

[1]  Tasa Neta de Participación por Sexo: (PEA/PET en porcentaje)

[2] For statistics purposes the National Institute of Geography and Statistics, INEGI defines informal employment as that is those not affiliated to a social security institution granting health and employment benefits granted within social security insurance.


INEGI. (2018a). Estadísticas a propósito del día internacional de las personas de edad (Adultos mayores). Datos nacionales.

INEGI. (2020). Estadísticas a propósito del día del trabajo. Datos nacionales. Comunicado de prensa núm. 166/20; 29 de abril de 2020.

INEGI. (n.d.-a). Características educativas de la población. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from

INEGI. (n.d.-b). Directorio Estadístico Nacional de Unidades Económicas. DENUE. Retrieved March 16, 2020, from

STPS. (2019). Informaciòn laboral.

During the third quarter (July-Sept) of 2018, South Africa’s unemployment rate increased by 0.3 percentage point to 27.5% (StatsSA, 2018d). Compared to the second quarter (2018), employed persons increased by 92 000 (i.e., to 16.4 million), while persons slipping into unemployment increased by 127 000 (i.e., to 6.2 million) for the same period (StatsSA, 2018d). Currently, the national unemployment rate recorded for the first quarter of 2019 stands at 27.6% (StatsSA, 2019b). This trend in increasing unemployment has continued with a significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns.

The latest statistical release indicates a further decrease in employment between the fourth quarter in 2018, with declines recorded in both the formal and informal sectors (StatsSA, 2019b). During the first quarter in 2019, the unemployment rate increased in 6 of the 9 provinces, with Mpumalanga (2.2%), Limpopo and Free State (2.0%), and Eastern Cape (1.3%) recording the largest increases in unemployment (StatsSA, 2019b).

In 2018, the expanded unemployment rate (i.e., including people who have stopped looking for work) increased from 36.7% in the second quarter to 37.2% in the third quarter, with higher rates for women (41.2%) than for men (33.7%) (StatsSA, 2018d, 2018c). This trend continued into the first quarter of 2019 with a recorded expanded unemployment rate of 38% (StatsSA, 2019b).

Regardless of race, men in South Africa are more likely to be in paid employment compared to women, who by the second quarter of 2018 totalled 55.2% of workers involved in non-market activities (StatsSA, 2018c).

Based on these figures, the female South African workforce continues to experience lack of opportunities, systematic inequality, and indirect discrimination (SAHRC, 2017a).

Table 7: South African labour force by age (Jul-Sept 2018)

15-24 yrs


25-34 yrs


35-44 yrs


45-54 yrs


55-64 yrs


Population 15–24 yrs 10308 9963 8137 5716 3861
Labour force 2664 7404 6535 4252 1734
Employed 1257 4890 5100 3570 1564
Unemployed 1408 2514 1435 683 170
Not economically active 7644 2559 1602 1463 2127

Source (data): (StatsSA, 2018d), p.23-24.

Table 8: South African labour force by gender (Jul-Sept 2018)

Third Quarter (Jul-Sept 2018) Men




Population 15–64 years 18790 19195
Labour force 12349 10240
Employed 9156 7225
Formal sector (non-agriculture) 6427 4827
Informal sector (non-agriculture) 1892 1125
Agriculture 565 277
Private households 271 995
Unemployed 3194 3016
Not economically active 6440 8955
Discouraged work seekers 1213 1520
Other (not economically active) 5228 7435
Rates (%)
Unemployment rate 25.9 29.4
Employed/population ratio (absorption) 48.7 37.6
Labour force participation rate 65.7 53.3

Source (data): (StatsSA, 2018d), p.19-20.



StatsSA. (2017a). Public healthcare: How much per person? Statistics South Africa: Statistical Release.

StatsSA. (2018c). How do women fare in the South African labour market? Statistics South Africa.

StatsSA. (2018d). Quarterly Labour Force Survey. Available from:

StatsSA. (2019b). Quarterly Labour Force Survey: Q1 2019. Available from: