[Excerpt] The global employment situation improved slightly in 2004. Global unemployment stood at 184.7 million at the end of 2004, down from a revised 185.2 million in 2003. Although the decline in unemployment is very small in percentage terms, this is a significant development, as it marks only the second time in the past decade that there was a year-over-year decline in total unemployment. In addition, the global employment-to-population ratio stabilized in 2004 at 61.8 per cent, from a revised 61.7 in 2003. The robust global economic growth rate of 5 per cent in 2004 undoubtedly played a large role in shaping these employment outcomes.
The focus of this Global Employment Trends Brief is not only on increasing employment, but also on poverty alleviation and improving the conditions of work. This brief updates the labour market trends to 2004 and addresses six key labour market challenges that are on the horizon for 2005, which are expected to impact on the global employment situation and poverty reduction. These challenges are the December 26th Asian Tsunami disaster, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, agricultural productivity in developing economies, outsourcing of employment, working conditions in the informal economy, and youth employment—all of which require immediate attention and a sustained response by governments, international organizations and civil society if we are to achieve the goal of decent and productive work for all.