An Indian miner in Allahabad who fears he may lose his job
As many as 51 million jobs worldwide could be lost this year because of the global economic crisis, says the International Labour Organization(ILO).
The UN agency says that would push up the world's unemployment rate to 7.1% by the end of 2009, compared with 6.0% in 2008 and 5.7% in 2007.
The ILO's most optimistic forecast is for 18 million more unemployed, giving a global jobless rate of 6.1%.
It says developing countries will suffer most from additional job losses.
"If the recession deepens in 2009, as many forecasters expect, the global jobs crisis will worsen sharply," the ILO said.
The International Monetary Fund is expected later on Wednesday to cut its forecast for world economic growth and predict a deeper than expected recession in the developed nations.
Despite painting both its best and worst jobs scenarios, the ILO said realistically 30 million more people could lose their jobs, pushing the global unemployment rate to 6.5%.
This week US construction and mining equipment maker Caterpillar has taken steps to cut about 20,000 jobs, Home Depot is shedding 7,000 jobs, and other firms such as ING and Philips are also axing posts.
"We are now facing a global jobs crisis," said ILO director-general, Juan Somavia in the ILO's Global Employment Trends 2009 report.
"Many governments are aware and acting, but more decisive and coordinated international action is needed to avert a global social recession.
"Progress in poverty reduction is unravelling and middle classes worldwide are weakening."
He called on the upcoming meeting of the G20 in early April in London to urgently agree on priority measures to promote productive investments and "decent" work and social protection objectives.
According to ILO estimates, North Africa and the Middle East had the highest unemployment rates at the end of 2008, of 10.3% and 9.4%.
Central and south-east Europe, as well as the former Soviet Union countries, ended last year with a jobless rate of 8.8%.
In sub-Saharan Africa the unemployment rate was 7.9%, while in Latin America it stood at 7.3%.
According to the ILO's study, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia stand out as regions with extremely harsh labour market conditions and with the highest shares of working poor of all regions.
"Although the trend has been declining over the past ten years, around four fifths of the employed were still classified as working poor in these regions in 2007," the report said.
Asian job growth
Most job creation in 2008 came from South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia - with the three regions accounting for more than half the new jobs (57%) created during the year.
The world's lowest unemployment rate was to be found in East Asia, with a jobless rate of 3.8%.
That was followed by South Asia (5.4%) and Southeast Asia & the Pacific (5.7%).
Meanwhile, in the EU and developed nations there was a 900,000 net job loss.
"We can expect that for many of those who manage to keep a job, earnings and other conditions of employment will deteriorate," added the ILO's Mr Somavia.
In October 2008, the ILO had predicted that the global financial crisis would add at least 20 million extra people to the world's unemployed.