UN Agency Warns of Unemployment-Related Unrest through 2015

The specter of demonstrations in Europe are not only likely to become a regular news item, but other economies have high odds of similar social stresses, a UN agency forecasts. The International Labour Organisation has pushed back its estimate of when global employment will return to pre-crisis levels back to 2015. Given the widespread signs of discontent, pressures can only intensify. From the Guardian:

The United Nations work agency today warned of a long “labour market recession” and noted that social unrest related to the crisis had already been reported in at least 25 countries, including some recovering emerging economies.

Crisis-hit Spain faced its first general strike in eight years this week as unions protested against the government’s austerity measures and labour reforms. The strike on Wednesday coincided with protests in Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Slovenia and Lithuania, as well as demonstrations in Brussels by tens of thousands of workers from across Europe as part of a European day of action against public spending cuts.

“Fairness must be the compass guiding us out of the crisis,” said ILO director general 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.”

Raymond Torres, lead author of the ILO’s annual World of Work report, published today, warned governments against withdrawing fiscal stimulus measures while the economic recovery was still weak.

Torres said there were two main reasons for the bleaker outlook facing many countries: “The first is that fiscal stimulus measures that were critical in averting a deeper crisis and helped jump-start the economy are now being withdrawn in countries where recovery, if any, is still too weak,” he said. “The second, and more fundamental factor is that the root causes of the crisis have not been properly tackled.”

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  1. Paul Repstock

    Wow!I hope their cystal ball is better or atleast more accuratethan mine. 2015 for a return to normal employment levels seems wildly optimistic..Or perhaps they are predicating that scenario on a lot smaller population??

    I loved this statement>>”Governments should not have to choose between the demands of financial markets and the needs of their citizens.” It should have been stated differently. {Governments -should not be allowed- to choose between the demands of the financial markets and the needs of their citizens}. If there is a difference between these objectives, then something is out of whack. And we know where most politicians will choose.

    1. Glen

      Maybe 2015 represents an estimate as to when pumped up police forces will be able to effectively suppress the masses because it’s way too optimistic to be a “return to normal employment levels”. Those are gone forever without any real change.

  2. attempter

    I agree, the 2015 date, as bad as it sounds, is just a carrot dangled before the dying workhorse to induce him to stagger on.

    This “economy” will never restore livable jobs. Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that on the contrary destroying all real jobs has been the intentional policy of close to 40 years now. They’re not going to stop when final victory is in sight.

    I hope we see effective general strikes in Europe and elsewhere. They still have the spirit and perhaps the labor infrastructure.

    As for America, the spirit seems doubtful. And it seems that part of the genius of the atomization of the citizenry, along with ending the draft and greatly lowering taxes (replacing taxation with government debt), has been the dispersal of the labor force. Part of the goal of the destruction of manufacturing and replacing it with a “service economy” was to disperse physical labor concentration even as all economic power became ever more centralized.

    In reading Tocqueville recently, I was struck by his observation that at the same historical moment that government and economic power was most centralized in Paris, all industrialization and its related capitalist infrastructure were also physically centralized there.

    So when the bourgeoisie and the workers combined against the government, it was literally a stroll down the street, and the job was done. It was almost effortless, the moment they decided to do it.

    But how can people combine for any kind of action in physically disintegrated America? In a bizarre way, it’s like asymmetrical warfare, but with the elites as the rapidly moving guerrillas whose power is in general dispersed and unassailable, but who are able to combine and strike with great force at any chosen point, while the lumbering, sprawled-out beast of the people has no idea where it is or how to move.

    1. i on the ball patriot

      Attempter says; “But how can people combine for any kind of action in physically disintegrated America? In a bizarre way, it’s like asymmetrical warfare, but with the elites as the rapidly moving guerrillas whose power is in general dispersed and unassailable, but who are able to combine and strike with great force at any chosen point, while the lumbering, sprawled-out beast of the people has no idea where it is or how to move.”

      First, it IS asymmetrical warfare, and second, it is NOT limited to scamerica. The wealthy ruling elite exert financial control GLOBALLY through their hijacked central banks and through them control global governments, their militaries, and most importantly, Mr. Global Propaganda that has considerably dumbed down the “lumbering, sprawled-out beast of the people” (I repeat, globally, not just in scamerica) who are still stuck in their old paradigm, rah, rah, patriotic nation state box bullshit thinking.

      If you want to combine the “lumbering, sprawled-out beast of the people” for any kind of action you must work to;

      • Get them all out of their nationcentric state box thinking.

      • Make them see the GLOBAL nature of the threat.

      • Make them see that this is just the very beginning of an intentional herd thinning to conserve over consumed global resources.

      • That it is orchestrated by the global wealthy gangster elite, the same thugs who are responsible for creating the global imbalance in resources.

      • Make them see that this is a well planned and orchestrated program of creating perpetual conflict in the masses so as to control them and deplete their energies of resistance against each other, and that it is designed to ultimately produce a two tier ruler and ruled world.

      • Work diligently to NOT take the bait, or engage in, any of the many perpetual conflict strategies set out for you, and work instead to inform of the reality, and, for solidarity against the uber rich and their government puppets by mounting massive global election boycotts as a ’vote of no confidence’ in these co-opted governments.

      Reading comments yesterday about the attempted coup against the clintonesque Rafael Correa, trying to impose ‘austerity’ in Ecuador, was indicative of the nation state box thinking that exists today. Most all comments took sides with the false left or right factions that were set in conflict, one against the other — caused by the financial machinations — but few questioned those financial machinations and in fact they are accepted as easily as dysfunctional children accept beatings from scum bag parents.

      Skip the Sarah Palin, Tea Bag, Mortgage War soaps, and organize globally to de-atomize.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

      1. attempter

        Right you are, although I didn’t say it was only in America. Nevertheless, as we see from the evidence, the people are more intrepid in many other places.

        Election boycotts sound good as far as they go (I personally boycott them, although I would vote at lower levels for relocalization activist-candidates if they existed; indeed I might become such a candidate), but how far do they go? The syndicalist general strike, for example, is a full revolutionary strategy, laid out in concept from the first strikes to the complete assumption of power by workers’ and community councils.

        But what do we do with election boycotts other than try to shame governments who don’t seem very prone to shame, to say the least?

        1. i on the ball patriot

          Attemptor says; “But what do we do with election boycotts other than try to shame governments who don’t seem very prone to shame, to say the least?”

          Thanks attemptor, I know you are aware of the global scope of the problem, my rant was more for emphasis for those reading on. As for the value of GLOBAL election boycotts, they can go well beyond the shaming of the gangsters and can be far more powerful than the general strikes you mention, and in fact THEY ARE the quintessential general strike. Consider …

          For starters, election boycotts have to be proactive. You must write a letter to your supervisor of elections DEMANDING that your letter be COUNTED as your guaranteed vote as a citizen, and counted and posted as a ‘vote of no confidence’ in this crooked gangster hijacked government and the scam electoral process that sustains it (yes I have done so). If your letter vote is not reported with election results, as a legitimate vote, you have a cause of action and can make some noise in the court of public opinion about how your vote has not been counted and that the system is a lie and a scam — which it is (yes I have done so and it prompted the local supervisor of elections to get on local talk radio and defend the system and at the same time demonize a few “kooks” (me) who refused to participate.) A plus of this approach is that many who are fearful of marching on the streets and making themselves subject to crooked sell out cop beatings and harassment — like in Miami, Oakland and Seattle — would have no qualms about engaging in a letter writing campaign and public constitutional rewrite for betterment meetings.

          In tandem with the letter writing, hold highly visible meetings on the public commons of towns and cities throughout scamerica (publicly burn USELESS voter registration cards to gain attention and blame those who vote as responsible for legitimizing and validating the crooked system, WHICH THEY ARE) and work at the same time to rewrite the Constitution. A hallmark of these meetings will be to erase the aggregate generational corruption in the now scam existing ’rule of law’, and blue sky and document remedial measures that can be implemented and incorporated into the new constitution that will be enacted when the old government falls as a result of the ‘vote of no confidence’ that will negate its legitimacy. For example;

          • Corporations should be required to have drafted citizens on corporate boards proportional to the dollar volume size of the corporations.

          • Loans should be made to citizens interest free and approved by local credit committees that judge applications on societal benefit.

          • Cops and military members should be drafted from a pool of ALL citizens for a period of eighteen months (no more of the oppressed and needy selling their morality for a pay check).

          • Etc. …

          I could go on, but the purpose of the meetings would be to provide REAL hope and a sense of community, a GLOBAL community, that would counter the feelings of atomization. Pot luck dinners, singing and dancing, and reconnecting of citizens, should be a staple of these meetings.

          With the proper PR effort, those who do not vote now could be included in the numbers of those who write boycott letters and make for impressive numbers of the ‘no confidence’ block. Currently about half of registered voters do not vote. I am sure they would be happy to be counted with the ‘No confidence’ crowd. Said another way they could be claimed, willing or not.

          The alternative is of course participating in the same old non responsive corrupt electoral bullshit. That alone provides fertile ground for the efforts I speak of …

          Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

          1. attempter

            That sounds like a good way to bring many current non-participants into participation. As you describe, the idea offers several layers of participation.

            And having been initially mobilized that way, the formerly non-participating could then expand their activism in other ways, as this boycott was interlinked with other avenues of action under a movement umbrella. The goal would be to link negative action like this with positive relocalization and direct democratic action.

      2. Externality

        I find it interesting how the Left and elites are suddenly suddenly opposed to identity politics. I recently responded to a similar post by Jeffrey Sachs decrying the divisive nature of American politics. http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2010/09/americas-deepening-moral-crisis.html

        Sachs, who is Jewish, has historically endorsed the Hegelian Marxist idea of minorities struggling against a heterosexual, White male protestant culture. He has also supported the Gramscian idea that it is immoral to expect immigrants to assimilate, even minimally, into Western culture.

        Why is anyone surprised that, as Whites become just another racial group in the “rich multicultural tapestry” of “post-White America,” that they will endorse the identity politics every other ethnic and racial group uses?

        The current recession, for example, is often analyzed in terms of which racial or ethnic groups is most affected. Blacks and Hispanics, according to the media, are affected more than Whites who are affected more than Asians. (Within these groups, some subgroups are affected more than other subgroups, and some subgroups are affected more or less than other groups.) Just as we have groups purporting to represent the interests of Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, we will soon have groups representing the interest of Whites. This is not racism, just Whites becoming like other groups.

        1. Glen

          Sachs is a Harvard economist. He is well known for his application of economic shock therapy:

          “Nancy Holmstrom and Richard Smith pointed out that, in advising implementation of his shock therapy on the collapsing Soviet Union, Sachs “supposed the transition to capitalism would be a natural, virtually automatic economic process: start by abandoning state planning, free up prices, promote private competition with state-owned industry, and sell off state industry as fast as possible…”. They go on to cite the drastic decreases in industrial output over the ensuing years, a nearly halving of the country’s GDP and of personal incomes, a doubling of the suicide rate, and a skyrocketing unemployment rate.[15] The Lancet [16] has recently reported that rapid privatization of the Soviet Union caused a 12.8% death rate increase among males in just two years,[17] a claim that The Economist attributed to alcoholism, though The Lancet article attributed the rise in alcoholism to changes in the economy. Canadian activist Naomi Klein argues in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism that Sachs’ Bolivian “success” is not true. In her analysis, the radical reforms pushed by Sachs were neither democratically agreed upon nor achieved without violent state repression and left the majority of Bolivians in worse circumstances.”

          I think there’s an easier explanation for his recent cocerns. He’s got “creator’s remorse” for the world which he created.

          1. Externality

            I also think that the Wall Street crowd is unhappy that average Americans are adopting Wall Street values. Businessmen who strategically defaulted on commercial mortgages and used legal maneuvering to avoid pension obligations were lauded on Wall Street, which had and has contempt for average Americans’ (former) view that people and entities have a moral, as well as legal, obligation to pay their debts. Morals, we have been told for a century by Wall Street and jurists such as Benjamin Cardozo, Learned Hand, and Richard Posner, have nothing to do with business.

            Now, average Americans are increasingly willing to strategically default on their mortgages and use legal maneuvering (“show me the mortgage note, please”) to avoid mortgage obligations altogether. Others see delays in the foreclosure process as an opportunity to live rent-free while saving money or spending it elsewhere in what Judge Posner would call an “efficient breach” of contract.

            Many mainstream financial blogs have pointed out the hypocrisy of Wall Street bankers simultaneously (1) supporting Morgan Stanley abandoning underwater commercial real estate and (2) denouncing average Americans who abandon their underwater homes.

            (An article re: Morgan Stanley’s strategic default can be found here:)

            For the growing trend among average Americans:

            Blogs comparing the residential and commercial defaults:


          2. Doug Terpstra

            Externality writes, “…the Wall Street crowd is unhappy that average Americans are adopting Wall Street values.”

            Not the sort of trickle-down they had in mind, aye? Too much yellow rain is making the peasants uppity and savvy.

  3. Jojo

    “The specter of demonstrations in Europe are not only likely to become a regular news item, but other economies have high odds of similar social stresses, a UN agency forecasts.”
    Except for in the USA where the un/underemployed appear to be unusually placated.

    Hell, even the crime rate has declined in USA in 2009. Apparently, the downtrodden can’t even get motivated enough to go out and mug someone or steal something.


    As I’ve said previously, there must be something in the water. Maybe it is all that Prozac dumped down toilet bowls that has leeched it way back into the drinking water supplies?

    1. Psychoanalystus

      As one who spends 6 months in the USA and 6 months in Europe every year, I too have wondered if there is something with American water supply that makes people more subdued. Perhaps the overfluoridation and clorination of water supply. One thing I noticed: as soon as I get to the USA my sex drive diminishes noticeably.


  4. George

    “Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that on the contrary destroying all real jobs has been the intentional policy of close to 40 years now.”

    What exactly do you mean by “real” jobs and to what benefit would destroying them be to anyone?

    1. attempter

      Personally, by real jobs I mean self-determined, self-managed work within a co-operative, voluntaristic order.

      But for existing purposes I’d call them jobs that pay a living wage, provide decent benefits, where human working conditions prevail.

      Why would the elite criminals want to destroy these jobs? Because they mean spreading the economic wealth and political power. Because they mean the producers actually keep far more of the produce of their work. Because they mean the elites are a lot less elite, the super-rich a lot less super, the powerful a lot less powerful.

      Since the elites are nothing but gangsters, they want the total monopoly of ALL socially created wealth, and they want to usurp ALL the power which reposes rightfully in the people. They want their tiny handful to rule over a vast mass of penniless slaves.

      That’s why they’ve been systematically destroying real jobs and job security for 40 years, through globalization, technology deployment, union-bashing, labor-hostile legislation, ideology, and propaganda.

      Does this really benefit the criminals? At any rate, they think it does, in their psychopathy.

      1. hermanas

        Exactly, imagine the Washington-Wall Street “White Door Party” enjoying cocaine. The “benefit”? “they think it does, in their psychopathy.”

  5. Yearning to Learn

    There is an interesting conundrum at play.

    on the one hand, people will be placated so long as they have access to bare necessities. The easiest and cheapest way to do that by far is to continue welfare and other poverty assistance. Despite deficit hawk squawking, it is rather cheap.

    without govt assistance we would have likely have mass riots quickly. Welfare is the glue that helps bind the haves and have-nots in our fragile society.

    Ironically, the Elites (who I call the Welfare Empresses and Welfare Goddesses) seem to not understand this point and they get upset that anybody ELSE gets any pork from the government, no matter how little. So they try to undermine the very programs that are actually keeping them in power. In a twist of language they call those in poverty “welfare Queens”.

    All Americans seem to really want is a place to live, some food (not matter how little nutrition is in there), some water, and some entertainment (TV, internet, and now smart phones). Lastly, they like at least a modicum of “fairness” even if that fairness doesn’t exist.

    Give them that and no riots. all IMO.

  6. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

    Much of the above analysis is predicated on IMMISERATION – that if enough pain and suffering is inflicted on the lower/working classes that it will lead to “unrest”.

    In the industrialized countries, the standard of living still allows for a good deal “dieting” before the starving masses will take to the streets, if ever. Anecdotally, when asked why he emigrated to the US, a recent immmigrant stated that it was the only country where “poor” people were fat – if perhaps malnourished! But such “dieting” would also require the agricultural sector to go on strike en masse… Is this likely in the USA, Canada, Western and Eastern Europe, Brazil, Russia, India, and China simultaneously? A situation where a FORGED consensus – an assumption that I find hard to believe – among these various elites to induce starvation would have to be agreed upon? Yes, there will likely be crop failures and famines in certain parts of the planet on occasion, but the global farm and mountains of foodstuffs will likely remain intact. Barring an ecological/genetic disaster of global proportions such a scenario isn’t likely. Those prone to conspiracy and MONSANTO/CARGILL may choose to differ.

    The different histories of these national/regional entities will also influence how higher structural unemployment/underemployment plays out. I just don’t see the FASCIST beast rearing its ugly head in Europe. This is one thing most Europeans, including Russians, all agree on. Tried it once and the lesson was learned!

    The demonstrations, protests, and strikes in Europe across national boundaries are suggestive of something much more fundamental. The legitimacy of the ruling elites there depends on the “prosperity” and well being of the populace and the former[elites] understand this. In China the mandate of heaven functions in a similar capacity. The ILO Report is merely a reminder of this, something that European elites are aware of already and it is never far from the minds of the communist mandarins in China.
    Likewise, the role of the state in the economy is much more pronounced in other parts of world. No matter how “Americanized/Anglicized” global economic thinking may appear, the Europeans are reeling from our 40 year experiment in neoclassical free market stupidity… and not likely to forget it soon. “Laissez-faire, c’est fini!” [To quote Nicolas Sarkozy]. Europe, Japan, and the BRIC in the wall will chart their own course, influenced by this country perhaps, but increasingly without US. That’s a good thing! The American Century didn’t last long…

    So, on this side of the pond where things appear a bit more bleak, there are still areas of vulnerability for American elites.

    One, is the sense that American imperial hegemony and leadership is beginning to wane as new actors – BRIC – emerge on the global stage. Multipolarity and multiculturalism are forces they are going to have to learn to live with whether they like it or not. And they may not be “primus inter paribus”…

    Two is their blind belief in technology. Inevitably this commitment will bring the issue of technological unemployment/underemployment into the public discourse. Likewise, anyone who works in IT/Network Communications knows how vulnerable both WE and THEY are to breakdown/shutdown. The former are much more dependent on this techonolgy for CONTROL than we are. The sitdown strikes of the 30s may have their counterpart in the random breakdown strikes of the future as the technopeasantry resorts to sabotage to disrupt the information flows vital to their CONTROL. This is a two-edged sword that cuts both ways. There are simply too many ways to thwart any given technology for good or evil.

    Finally, one thing the moribund labor movement could do is use their dwindling pension funds to set up peoples’ banks that would accept savings and the like by working people – unionized or not – which would then be used to build affordable housing at reasonable rates of interest employing UNION labor – the building trades – etc. Putting ourselves back to work, if you will. SYNDICALISM!!! If ever the opportunity for doing so existed, it is now. Similar co-operative ventures could be funded by individual 401K funds pooled together that are languishing, if not evaporating. There are opportunities for change that have been created by this crisis. It’s up to us to find them.

  7. killben

    Torres said there were two main reasons for the bleaker outlook facing many countries: “The first is that fiscal stimulus measures that were critical in averting a deeper crisis and helped jump-start the economy are now being withdrawn in countries where recovery, if any, is still too weak,” he said. “The second, and more fundamental factor is that the root causes of the crisis have not been properly tackled.”

    AS usual they will not dare mention that the guys who should have eaten shit were enables to transfer it to the tax-payers plate. If there is social unrest there is valid reasons for the same. Let it go ahead. When policy makers make policies which suit a certain section of society this what happens and rightly so. Get on with the social movement!! None too soon. Infact should have started in UK when Northern Bank was bailed out.

  8. Ellen Anderson

    Impressive level of discourse on this site. Wonder how many of you were philosophy majors.

  9. Psychoanalystus

    I think it is likely Europe will explode with riots and strikes before the US. The Greeks especially don’t take too much BS. I think the fact that Greece is the first country where the elites are trying their most severe measures of austerity is strategic, in order to subdue the toughest ones first. The Germans, French, Italians, Romanians, British, Spanish, and Polish people will be a lot easier to subdue than the Greeks.


  10. Glen

    I think it’s safe to say that there would be much more civil unrest in America if Obama had not been elected into office. The American people had pinned their hopes on “change you can believe in” as a clear sign that the balance would begin to shift back towards fair play for all, and a government which supported the middle class.

    Right now, I’d have to say most of America is rather pissed off with how things turned out which for some strange reason Obama have labelled as “irresponsible”.

    But in general, Americans really don’t have the free time, money, or real civil liberties to go protest compared to Europe. They know the game is rigged, and they are screwed.

    1. Psychoanalystus

      I have been saying that Obama is a trojan horse of the elites meant only to buy them more time so they could finish their ongoing work of stealing everything and anything of value still left in America. Once the government bailouts will stop, we’ll be worse off than Zimbabwe.

      And that, my friends, is change you can believe in…


      1. Glen

        I cannot disagree at this point.

        But it’s worth exploring why there is such a disparity between European and American activism. Some of that can be attributed to Obama’s success at crushing the left in his own party. Some of it to the effective astroturfing of the Tea Party which seems so kooky at times and so obviously bought and paid for by the ultra-conservative rich as to de-legitimize populist demonstrations.

      2. Doug Terpstra

        I suspect the elites have some surprises in store. Their cynical political chess is not as predictable as the board game, and their Trojan dark horse may yet prove to be their Achilles’ heel. To underscore Glen’s point, I think people are in fact _seriously_ pissed off, just reeling from the shock and awe scale of betrayals and still getting their bearings, as seen here. There are still some on the “professional left” whose salaries depend on telling the base to suck up and buck up, but where I’ve been these are usually pounded to a bloodless pulp by commenters. Tipping points can be hard to foresee accurately, but I suspect we’re in for a doozy in 2012.

  11. ep3

    Sure all human persons will have to share in the pain and suffering. But all corporate persons won’t have to.

  12. Francois T

    Contrast what is happening to us here and now with this:

    As head of state, president Dilma Rousseff would outrank Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State: her enormous country of 200 million people is reveling in its new oil wealth. Brazil’s growth rate, rivaling China’s, is one that Europe and Washington can only envy.

    Her widely predicted victory in next Sunday’s presidential poll will be greeted with delight by millions. It marks the final demolition of the “national security state“, an arrangement that conservative governments in the US and Europe once regarded as their best artifice for limiting democracy and reform. It maintained a rotten status quo that kept a vast majority in poverty in Latin America while favoring their rich friends.

    Just to put this in context:

    The generals seized power in 1964 and decreed a reign of terror to defend what they called “national security”. She joined secretive radical groups that saw nothing wrong with taking up arms against an illegitimate military regime. Besides cosseting the rich and crushing trade unions and the underclass, the generals censored the press, forbidding editors from leaving gaps in newspapers to show where news had been suppressed.

    Anyone who has followed the saga of the destruction of civil liberties in this country can connect the dots.

  13. Rick Halsen

    Ah, you that are concerned of the when’s and why’s, don’t worry. IMO, there’ll certainly be a globally grand Black Swan event here sooner rather than later.

    Everything will come into sharper HD focus on our collective fates which even the elites won’t be able to deal with or escape from.

    God at times has one hell of a sense of dark humor.

    1. Paul Repstock

      That is exactly one of my main concerns in reguard to the global inequities and disparities Rick…We have no idea of knowing wher such an event mght hit hardest. All I could guess is that it is unlikely to be an event which respects the social order we know now. Therefore, al humans should be given opportunities to advance as much as possible so that not everything is lost.
      I have no precience, or premonition of such an event, but like you I’m aware that they occur periodically.

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