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Unemployment by Country 2024

Snapshot

  • The global unemployment rate in 2021 is estimated between 6.3-6.5%, reflecting economic conditions rather than predicting them.

  • South Africa's unemployment rate in 2019 varied significantly based on the criteria used, demonstrating the impact of definitional differences.

  • Unemployment leads to several adverse effects including increased mental health issues, crime rates, and economic challenges like inflation.

The unemployment rate is defined as the percentage of unemployed workers in the total labor force. The unemployment rate includes workers who currently do not work, although they can do so. For 2021, the global unemployment rate is estimated to be between 6.3-6.5%, depending upon the source. The unemployment rate is a lagging indicator, meaning it responds (rises and falls) to changing economic conditions rather than influencing or predicting them. When the economy grows at a healthy rate, the job market is plentiful and the unemployment rate drops. When the economy is experiencing a recession or other turbulence, the job market tends to retract and the unemployment rate rises in response.

The challenge of comparing international unemployment rates

When evaluating the unemployment rates of countries in comparison with one another, it is vital to keep in mind that it is not always an apples-to-apples comparison. For starters, not every country has the same definition of unemployment—for instance, some countries say that if a person is able to work but not currently employed, that person is unemployed. But other countries only consider a person unemployed if they are actively seeking work. People who are not working and not looking for work are not considered unemployed. Obviously, these different definitions will have an impact on the unemployment rates posted by those countries.

To see this impact in action, examine the 2019 unemployment rate in South Africa, using data from the International Labour Organization. According to the ILOSTAT database, Unemployment is 29% when filtered using all three criteria (not employed, available, and looking), 38% when filtered by "not employed but available" with no measure of looking, and a full 40% when filtered by "not employed but looking" with no availability requirement.

Fortunately, most countries currently report their unemployment according to an established international standard, which makes it easier to ensure apples-to-apples data comparisons. But the possibility of a mismatch still exists and can be a helpful thing to keep in mind—especially if you encounter data that seem surprising. An additional concern is the timeliness of the data. Unemployment rates can change significantly from month to month, let alone year to year, so comparing one country's 2020 rate to another country's 2015 rate is likely to give an inaccurate impression. That said, if no new data have been released, older data are still better than no data at all.

Top Ten Countries with the Highest Unemployment (World Bank 2020 data):

Country
Rate (WB)
South Africa28.8%
Tuvalu26.6%
Djibouti26.1%
Equatorial Guinea25%
Palestine24.4%
Botswana23.6%
Grenada22.9%
Eswatini22.7%
Gabon20.4%
Namibia19.9%

The impact of unemployment

Unemployment has many adverse effects, including: increased depression and other mental health problems, increased crime rates, overall lower economic productivity and consumption, lower rates of volunteerism, and erosion of skills. Surprisingly, exceptionally low unemployment can also create economic challenges, such as excessive inflation (when everyone is employed and has money to spend, demand for products can outstrip supply, which causes a rise in prices). This can lead to a rising cost of living, which can be particularly hard on citizens in developing and/or low-income countries.

In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses six different methods to calculate the unemployment rate. The most widely used and cited unemployment statistic is U-3, which defines unemployed people as willing and able to work and who have actively searched for work in the past four weeks. Those who would like to work but are unable, such as those with disabilities, are not considered unemployed. As defined by the U-3 statistic, the number of unemployed people is divided by the number of people in the labor force and multiplied by 100.

Top Ten Countries with the Lowest Unemployment (World Bank 2020 data):

Country
Rate (WB)
Qatar0.1%
Cambodia0.4%
Solomon Islands0.7%
Palau0.8%
Thailand0.9%
Malawi0.9%
Moldova0.9%
Burundi1%
Chad1.1%
Bahrain1.2%

What unemployment numbers don't tell us

A low unemployment rate does not necessarily indicate that a country's people are living in favorable, sustainable conditions. A report released by the International Labor Organization found that many of the 3.3 billion people throughout the world who are technically employed are working under substandard conditions that offer too little pay, poor economic security, and little to no opportunity for advancement.

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on unemployment

The International Labor Organization's World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2019 reported that the global unemployment rate dropped below 5% in 2018, the lowest since the 2008 financial crisis. That percentage did not last, however, thanks in no small part to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. unemployment rate was 3.8% before the COVID-19 pandemic (February 2020). By May 2020, the unemployment rate may have risen as high as 16%. By September 2020, the unemployment rate decreased to 7.9%.

The three types of unemployment

There are three types of unemployment: frictional, structural, and seasonal. Frictional unemployment refers to temporary unemployment during the period when someone is searching for a job. Structural unemployment is the mismatch between workers' skills or locations and job requirements. Seasonal unemployment is caused by seasonal changes in a population's activity, such as tourism or agriculture.

- Data for Palestine pertains to West Bank only. Data for Gaza Strip have not been released.
- Due to differences in methodology, unemployment rate estimates often vary from source to source, sometimes significantly. Data from World Bank, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are shown here.

Download Table Data

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Country
Rate (WB)
Year (WB)
Rate - Int'l. Labour Org.
Year (ILO)
Rate - CIA
Year (CIA)
South Africa28.8%202228.77%202133.56%2021
Tuvalu26.6%20178.49%2016
Djibouti26.1%201726.06%201728.39%2021
Equatorial Guinea25%1983 9.24%2021
Palestine24.4%2022 24.9%2021
Botswana23.6%202221.02%202024.72%2021
Grenada22.9%201522.9%201524%2017
Eswatini22.7%201622.72%201625.76%2021
Gabon20.4%2010 22.26%2021
Namibia19.9%201819.88%201821.68%2021
Jordan19.8%202119.84%202119.25%2021
Curacao19.1%202019.07%202013%2013
Libya19%2012 19.58%2021
Somalia18.8%201918.83%201919.86%2021
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines18.8%2008 21.62%2021
Sudan17.4%2011 19.81%2021
Tunisia17.1%201915.13%201916.82%2021
Lesotho16.9%201916.88%201924.6%2021
Montenegro16.5%202117.88%202018.49%2021
Iraq16.2%202116.17%202114.19%2021
Angola15.8%2021 8.53%2021
Saint Lucia15.8%202219.52%202116.91%2021
Rwanda15.1%202215.79%20211.61%2021
North Macedonia14.4%202215.78%202116.2%2021
Haiti14.1%2012 15.73%2021
New Caledonia13.6%202013.56%202016.57%2021
Sao Tome and Principe13.6%2012 15.91%2021
Yemen13.5%2014 13.57%2021
Guyana13.5%201913.52%201916.42%2021
Spain12.9%202214.78%202114.73%2021
Bosnia and Herzegovina12.7%202214.9%202115.22%2021
Greece12.4%202214.66%202114.8%2021
Morocco12.3%20219.3%201611.47%2021
South Sudan12.2%2008 13.91%2021
Algeria12%201712%201712.7%2021
Georgia11.7%202011.73%202010.66%2021
French Polynesia11.7%2007 14.39%2021
Albania11.5%201911.69%202011.82%2021
Costa Rica11.3%202215.14%202117.95%2021
Lebanon11.3%201911.3%201914.49%2021
Cape Verde11.3%201911.29%201915.42%2021
Northern Mariana Islands11.2%2010 11.2%2010
Kiribati11%20208.56%201930.6%2010
Dominica11%2001 23%2000
Nigeria10.7%201910.7%20199.79%2021
Nepal10.7%201710.66%20175.05%2021
Colombia10.6%202213.9%202114.34%2021
Mauritania10.4%201910.42%201911.46%2021
Belize10.2%202110.16%20218.22%2021
Armenia10%202112.18%202020.9%2021
Bahamas10%201810%201813.24%2021
Ukraine9.8%20219.83%20218.88%2021
Marshall Islands9.8%20216.34%201936%2006
Zimbabwe9.5%20217.37%20195.17%2021
Samoa9.4%20179.4%20179.84%2021
Iran9.3%20219.69%202011.46%2021
Brazil9.2%202213.16%202114.4%2021
American Samoa9.2%2010 29.8%2005
Greenland9.1%20159.1%20159.1%2015
Micronesia8.9%2014 16.2%2010
Aruba8.9%2011 7.7%2016
Bermuda8.9%2014 7%2017
Argentina8.7%20218.74%202110.9%2021
Serbia8.7%202210.06%202111.81%2021
Honduras8.5%202110.68%20208.51%2021
Barbados8.4%20198.41%201910.41%2021
Chile8.3%20229.28%20219.13%2021
Panama8.3%202210.29%202112.09%2021
Turks and Caicos Islands8.3%2008 10%1997
Italy8.1%20229.5%20219.83%2021
Uruguay7.9%20229.29%202110.45%2021
Suriname7.9%20167.92%201610.06%2021
Niger7.8%20187.77%20170.75%2021
Dominican Republic7.7%20217.7%20218.5%2021
Mauritius7.7%20218.2%20217.41%2021
Venezuela7.5%20207.53%20206.41%2021
Egypt7.4%20217.94%20209.33%2021
Sweden7.4%20228.72%20218.66%2021
France7.3%20227.86%20218.06%2021
Croatia7%20227.61%20218.68%2021
Tajikistan6.9%20166.9%20167.75%2021
Paraguay6.8%20227.31%20217.21%2021
Latvia6.8%20227.51%20217.6%2021
Cyprus6.8%20227.51%20216.13%2021
Finland6.7%20227.61%20217.53%2021
India6.4%20216.51%20195.98%2021
Gibraltar6.4%1991 1%2016
Pakistan6.3%20216.34%20214.35%2021
Monaco6.3%20166.33%20162%2012
San Marino6.3%20216.34%20218.1%2017
Mongolia6.2%20227.75%20217.08%2021
Slovakia6.1%20226.89%20216.74%2021
Portugal6%20226.58%20216.65%2021
Liberia6%20175.95%20174.09%2021
Puerto Rico6%20227.9%20218.27%2021
Bhutan6%20224.8%20214.33%2021
Comoros5.9%2021 9.45%2021
Kenya5.7%20215.01%20195.74%2021
Azerbaijan5.7%20225.95%20216.58%2021
Afghanistan5.6%20215.58%202113.28%2021
Saudi Arabia5.6%20226.62%20217.36%2021
Romania5.6%20225.59%20215.17%2021
Belgium5.6%20226.26%20216.42%2021
Estonia5.6%20226.18%20216.33%2021
Guam5.4%20165.4%20166.98%2021
Canada5.3%20227.46%20217.51%2021
Uzbekistan5.3%20205.29%20207.16%2021
Zambia5.2%20215.2%202113.03%2021
Nicaragua5.2%20185.2%20185.96%2021
Jamaica5.2%20218.35%20219.18%2021
China5.1%20215.11%20214.82%2021
Saint Kitts and Nevis5.1%2001 4.5%1997
Nauru5.1%2021 23%2011
Guinea5%20195.02%20196.34%2021
Austria5%20226.46%20216.3%2021
Kazakhstan4.9%20224.89%20204.9%2021
Brunei4.9%20214.91%20217.65%2021
Israel4.8%20214.96%20215.05%2021
Burkina Faso4.7%20184.69%20184.76%2021
Lithuania4.6%20227.11%20217.9%2021
Luxembourg4.6%20225.25%20215.23%2021
Maldives4.6%20194.56%20196.08%2021
Malaysia4.5%20204.54%20204.61%2021
Ireland4.5%20226.19%20216.63%2021
Trinidad and Tobago4.5%20214.45%20214.8%2021
Bangladesh4.4%20174.37%20175.23%2021
Denmark4.4%20225.06%20214.8%2021
Switzerland4.3%20225.1%20215.32%2021
Hong Kong4.3%20225.17%20215.32%2021
Bulgaria4.3%20225.27%20215.42%2021
Fiji4.3%20164.32%20165.24%2021
Seychelles4.3%20204.31%20203%2017
Cayman Islands4.2%20154.24%20154%2008
Kyrgyzstan4.1%20214.1%20219.1%2021
Gambia4.1%20184.13%201811.21%2021
Turkmenistan4%2010 5.08%2021
Slovenia4%20224.74%20214.42%2021
Vanuatu4%20205.44%20192.18%2021
Faroe Islands4%2013 2.2%2017
Russia3.9%20224.72%20215.01%2021
Ethiopia3.9%20213.93%20213.69%2021
Peru3.9%20225.1%20214.83%2021
Ecuador3.8%20224.5%20216.43%2021
Iceland3.8%20225.99%20215.4%2021
United Kingdom3.7%20193.74%20194.53%2021
Australia3.7%20225.12%20215.11%2021
Togo3.7%20173.74%20174%2021
United States3.6%20225.35%20215.46%2021
Hungary3.6%20224.05%20214.12%2021
Belarus3.6%20223.9%20214.74%2021
Singapore3.6%20223.54%20213.62%2021
Indonesia3.5%20223.83%20214.41%2021
Cameroon3.5%2014 3.87%2021
Mali3.5%20203.53%20207.72%2021
Netherlands3.5%20224.21%20214.01%2021
Bolivia3.5%20225.09%20218.51%2021
Philippines3.4%20213.4%20212.41%2021
Uganda3.4%20213.64%20172.94%2021
Mozambique3.4%20153.43%20153.98%2021
Ghana3.4%20173.37%20174.7%2021
Mexico3.3%20224.09%20214.38%2021
Laos3.3%20173.27%20171.26%2021
New Zealand3.3%20223.78%20214.12%2021
British Virgin Islands3.3%1991 2.9%2015
Sierra Leone3.2%20183.19%20185.33%2021
Norway3.2%20224.37%20214.99%2021
Guinea Bissau3.2%20183.2%20186.76%2021
Germany3.1%20223.57%20213.54%2021
United Arab Emirates3.1%20213.11%20213.36%2021
Guatemala3%20222.19%20193.57%2021
El Salvador3%20224.33%20215.94%2021
South Korea2.9%20223.64%20213.53%2021
Poland2.9%20223.36%20213.37%2021
Senegal2.9%20192.86%20193.72%2021
Malta2.9%20223.39%20213.5%2021
Tanzania2.8%20202.78%20202.65%2021
Isle of Man2.7%20162.67%20162%Apr-11
Japan2.6%20222.8%20212.8%2021
Papua New Guinea2.6%2011 2.75%2021
Macau2.6%20202.57%20203.01%2021
Timor Leste2.3%20214.66%20165.07%2021
Czech Republic2.2%20222.8%20212.89%2021
Kuwait2.2%20162.16%20163.71%2021
Tonga2.1%20212.25%20183.97%2021
Liechtenstein2%2007 2.4%2015
Oman1.9%20212.94%20203.12%2021
Madagascar1.8%20151.79%20152.59%2021
Cuba1.7%20181.7%20182.76%2021
DR Congo1.5%20201.47%20205.43%2021
Vietnam1.5%20222.38%20212.17%2021
Myanmar1.5%20201.48%2020
Benin1.5%20181.47%20181.57%2021
Bahrain1.2%2012 1.87%2021
Chad1.1%20181.13%20181.88%2021
Burundi1%20201.03%20201.79%2021
Thailand0.9%20221.21%20211.42%2021
Malawi0.9%20200.91%20207.02%2021
Moldova0.9%20220.79%20213.96%2021
Palau0.8%2020 1.7%2015
Solomon Islands0.7%2013 1.03%2021
Cambodia0.4%20210.5%20190.61%2021
Qatar0.1%20220.14%20210.26%2021
Ivory Coast 2.4%20193.47%2021
North Korea 2.59%2021
Syria 10.57%2021
Taiwan 3.84%20203.73%2019
Sri Lanka 5.36%20205.39%2021
Central African Republic 6.57%2021
Eritrea 8.05%2021
Guadeloupe 23.8%2016
Martinique 17.6%2016
French Guiana 23.2%2016
Jersey 4%20157.37%2021
United States Virgin Islands 13.27%2021
Antigua and Barbuda 11%2014
Andorra 3.7%2016
Guernsey 7.37%2021
Sint Maarten 12%2012
Cook Islands 1.26%201913.1%2005
Anguilla 8%2002
Wallis and Futuna 8.8%2013
Saint Pierre and Miquelon 8.7%2015
Montserrat 8.33%20205.6%2017
Falkland Islands 0.97%20161%2016
Niue 12%2001
Tokelau 2%2015
showing: 226 rows

What country has the highest unemployment rate?

South Africa has the highest unemployment rate in the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sources