Growing mass protests and riots are feared as a United Nations work agency forecasts employment will not now recover until 2015.
Warning of a long "labour market recession,” the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said social unrest has already been reported in at least 25 countries around the world.
In its latest check on the world economy, the ILO says that, globally, employment levels will not recover to pre-crisis levels before 2015, two years later than before thought. It says about 22 million new jobs are needed – 14 million in rich countries and 8 million in developing nations.
Spain last week saw its first general strike in eight years as unions protested against government cuts and work reforms. Also on Wednesday there were protests in Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Slovenia and Lithuania, as well as a European day of action against public spending cuts in Brussels, which drew hundreds of thousands of workers.
"Fairness must be the compass guiding us out of the crisis," said the ILO’s Juan Somavia. "People can understand and accept difficult choices, if they perceive that all share in the burden of pain. Governments should not have to choose between the demands of financial markets and the needs of their citizens. Financial and social stability must come together. Otherwise, not only the global economy but also social cohesion will be at risk."
The ILO's annual World of Work report, released on Friday, said the global economy had started growing again, with encouraging signs of employment recovery, especially in emerging economies in Asia and Latin America. But it added: "Despite these significant gains ... new clouds have emerged on the employment horizon and the prospects have worsened significantly in many countries."
Since the crisis started in 2007, some 30 to 35 million jobs have been lost worldwide, and young people are taking the hardest hit. The ILO forecasts that global unemployment will hit 213 million people or 6.5 per cent this year. Even among people who are working, job satisfaction has plummeted.
"The longer the labour market recession, the greater the difficulties for jobseekers to obtain new employment," the ILO report said. "In the 35 countries for which data exists, nearly 40% of jobseekers have been without work for more than one year and therefore run significant risks of demoralisation, loss of self-esteem and mental health problems. Importantly, young people are disproportionately hit by unemployment."