Unemployment has risen in two-thirds of European countries since 2010 as austerity hit growth and jobs, the International Labour Organisation has said.

In its annual world of work report, the Geneva-based ILO warned that the weaknesses in the labour market were becoming ingrained, with high levels of long-term and youth unemployment.

The study found there were still 50 million fewer jobs in the global economy than before the recession began in 2008 and it was unlikely that growth would be strong enough in the next two years to find jobs for an extra 80 million people looking for work.

Raymond Torres, director of the International Institute for Labour Studies and author of the report, said: "This is not a normal employment slowdown. Four years into the global crisis, labour market imbalances are becoming more structural, and therefore more difficult to eradicate. Certain groups, such as the long-term unemployed, are at risk of exclusion from the labour market. This means they would be unable to obtain new employment even if there were a strong recovery."

The ILO said the global employment rate in 2011 stood at 60.3% – 0.9 percentage points lower than before the synchronised global downturn began four years ago. It added that youth unemployment had risen in 80% of advanced economies and in two-thirds of emerging market economies. Long-term unemployment was also on the rise, with one third of the jobless in the west out of work for more than a year.

Even in countries where employment growth was on the rise, the ILO said jobs tended to be on a short-term basis, with increases in involuntary part-time employment and part-time temporary employment.

Torres said: "The trends are especially worrying in Europe, where the unemployment rate has increased in nearly two-thirds of these countries since 2010; but labour market recovery has also stalled in other advanced economies, such as Japan and the United States. Elsewhere, employment gains have weakened in terms of the needs of a growing, better educated working-age population, as in China. And jobs deficits remain acute in much of the Arab region and Africa."

He added that many countries in southern Europe were caught in an "austerity trap" in which budget cuts led to higher unemployment and lower growth, resulting in an even worse fiscal position.

© Guardian News and Media 2012

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