Unemployment exists in almost every country in the world, but rates can vary from as little as one percent to as high as eighty-five percent, from one country to the next. It is not always predictable; some countries considered to have prosperous economies have relatively high levels of it, while poor nations can have very low unemployment in some cases. Read on for a summary and comparison of unemployment rates in each of the world’s continents…
EUROPE: Few countries on the European continent have unemployment rates in excess of ten percent. According to the CIA World Factbook, some of the countries with the lowest rates include Andorra and Monaco (both zero percent), Iceland and Liechtenstein (both 1.3%), and Belarus (1.6 percent; however, the factbook claims there are a number of “underemployed” people). Italy, France, Finland, Moldova, Spain, Hungary, Greece, and Germany all have unemployment rates of about 7-9%. Two of the highest rates include Albania (13.8%) and Poland (14.9%).
N. AMERICA: Most nations in North and Central America have relatively low rates compared to other parts of the world, with a few exceptions like Honduras (27.9%) and some of the smaller islands. It is just under five percent in the United States, 6.4% in Canada, 3.2% in Guatemala, 1.9% in Cuba, 12.5% in Grenada, and 3.2% in Mexico (the factbook also indicates that there is estimated to additionally be about 25% underemployment in Mexico).
S. AMERICA: South American countries generally have unemployment in excess of eight percent but not more than eleven, which is minimal compared to most African and Middle Eastern nations. Argentina (8.7%), Suriname (9.5%) and Venezuela (8.9%) are three of the lowest, while it is higher in Brazil (9.6%) and Colombia (11.1%). The CIA World Factbook indicates that there is 7.2% unemployment in the city of Lima, but states that there is “widespread underemployment” in Peru.
AFRICA: Unemployment varies greatly in different African countries, from only 5.3% in the southwestern nation of Namibia to some of the highest rates in the world, like 85% in the small west African country of Liberia. Others include oil-rich Nigeria (5.8%), the Central African Republic (8%), Egypt (10.3%), Botswana (23.8%), South Africa (25.5%), and Zimbabwe (80%). Rates are listed as unavailable in some countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, and Ethiopia. An IRIN news story from 2005 suggested that unemployment may be as high as 87% in Malawi.
ASIA: Some Asian countries have very low unemployment rates, and most are under twenty-five percent. The highest unemployment tends to be in countries where war is taking place or recently ended, such as Afghanistan (40%), the Palestinian territories (20.3%), Nepal (42%), Lebanon (20%), and Iraq (25%, possibly 30%). Other examples of unemployment levels in Asian countries include Vietnam (2%), Laos (2.4%), Cambodia (2.5%), Singapore (3.1%), Mongolia (3.3%), Japan (4.1%), Myanmar/Burma (10.2%), and Saudi Arabia (13%). The neighboring continent of Australia has an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent.
It is difficult to draw many general conclusions from this data, especially when the criteria for people qualified as unemployed varies from one country to the next. No particular economic or political system appears to ensure full employment everywhere it is applied, and unemployment rates don’t always correspond with how wealthy a nation is considered to be. However, one largely consistent trend is that countries with military instability (civil war, rebels, invasion, separatism, etc.) tend to have more unemployment compared with parts of the world which are largely peaceful.
1. CIA World Factbook (public domain), https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2129.html
2. IRIN, http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=53087