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[Excerpt] Since the first issue of this report in January 2003, a slow economic upturn has once again resulted in a deteriorating global employment situation. For the second time, this report provides a valuable analysis of current labour market trends around the world. It incorporates the most recent information available, shedding light on possible factors contributing to the downturn affecting many workers today.

The impacts of the sluggish global recovery in 2003, of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and its effect on tourism, of the ongoing conflict in Iraq and of the worldwide threat of terrorism have been different in different regions of the world, and this report reveals how women and young people have – once again – been especially hard hit, particularly in the developing world. Covering Latin America and the Caribbean, East Asia, South-East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, the transition economies and industrialized countries, this volume focuses on the distinct labour market characteristics and challenges faced by each region and economic group.

The report traces the various factors contributing to the global employment decline – such as the increase in employment in the informal economy, the decrease in employment in information and communication technology, as well as extensive job losses in travel and tourism and in the export and labour-intensive manufacturing sectors. Countries in fragile financial situations and those experiencing armed conflict and violence have also seen rising unemployment and poverty.

Clearly, the global employment challenges are many and some are daunting. The information provided here offers a concise picture of the current situation and of where economic growth and decent work opportunities are most needed around the world.