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July 2016, Volume 22, Number 3

Global Population, Refugees, ILO

The world's population of 7.4 billion is increasing by 83 million a year, the difference between 140 million births and 57 million deaths. The UN's medium projection is for eight billion people in 2024, nine billion in 2038, and 10 billion in 2056, with over half of this almost three billion increase occurring in Africa.

By 2050, over two-thirds of the world's people are expected to live in cities, up from half now.

There are 30 megacities, each with more than 10 million residents and a total of 500 million people, led by Tokyo with almost 40 million and Shanghai with 35 million. The largest megacity outside of Asia is New York City, whose metro area population is 24 million.

Growing megacities have more people than entire countries. For example, Shanghai has more residents than Canada, and Delhi with 26 million residents has more people than Australia. Dhaka, Karachi, Lagos and Cairo are each projected to have more than 20 million people by 2025.

The world's population growth peaked at 2.1 percent a year in the late 1960s, and is 1.1 percent today. However, Africa's population growth rate is almost 2.5 percent, which means that Africa, which already has more people than are in all industrial countries, 1.2 billion, is projected to have twice as many people by 2050 as live in what are today the 30 more developed countries.

Nigeria today has about 180 million people, but is projected to have 400 million by 2050, slightly more than the US. Other changes include India surpassing China in population in 2022 and before 2050 Russia and Mexico being replaced in the list of the 10 most populous countries by Congo and Ethiopia.

Refugees. The UN in June 2016 reported 65 million displaced people in 2015, including 16 million refugees, almost 41 million internally displaced persons, and three million asylum seekers; there are another five million Palestinians registered with a UN agency.

Syria was the source of almost five million refugees, Afghanistan almost three million, and Somalia over one million. Turkey hosted 2.5 million or a sixth of all refugees, followed by Pakistan, 1.6 million, Lebanon, 1.1 million, and Iran, almost a million.

There will be a meeting at the UN in September 2016 on how to cope with rising numbers of people on the move. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon visited Lesbos, Greece in June 2016 and said "Let us work together to resettle more people, provide legal pathways, and better integrate refugees."

Dadaab, considered the world's largest refugee camp with 300,000 mostly Somali residents spread over 20 square miles in northern Kenya, may be closed by November 2016 because of fears that militants are recruiting young male residents. Others say that the Kenyan government saw Turkey getting E6 billion for hosting Syrians, and now Kenya wants aid in exchange for allowing Dadaab to stay open.

The UN covers the costs of feeding Dadaab residents. Past threats to close Dadaab resulted in extra payments to the Kenyan government that critics said never reached Dadaab residents.

IOM estimated that 5,400 migrants died in 2015 trying to travel to other countries, up from 5,000 in 2014. Almost 80 percent of the deaths were among migrants trying to reach Europe, followed by 15 percent in southeast Asia and 300 on the Mexico-US border. There are believed to have been more deaths of migrants in the Sahara desert, where measurement is difficult.

ILO. The ILO estimated world employment at 3.3 billion in 2015, including half who were wage and salary workers, 36 percent "own account" (self-employed or in informal employment), 12 percent employed in family enterprises, and two percent employers; another 200 million workers were jobless. Developed economies had 482 million employed workers, of whom 87 percent were wage and salary workers and nine percent own account workers. Developing economies had fewer wage and salary workers and more own account and family workers.

The ILO estimated 100 million children under 15 who work, including 60 percent in agriculture. The June 12, 2016 World Day Against Child Labour aims to reduce child labor via e-learning courses that help government officials consider alternatives, including using machines to remove weeds and training oxen to plow so that children do not have to guide them.

The UN, which defines poverty has living on less than $3.10 (PPP) a day in 2015, reported that two billion or a third of the world's six billion people in developing countries were poor in 2015. Another 300 million of the 1.2 billion people in rich countries, about 22 percent, were poor, defined as being in a household with an income of less than 60 percent of the median for the country, that is, below $31,000 in the US, where the median income is $52,000.

The extremely poor are defined as those living on less than $1.90 a day in 2015. Almost 90 percent of those in extreme poverty in 2012 were in the agricultural and rural sectors of developing countries. A quarter of all those employed in agriculture in developing countries were extremely poor, compared with 12 percent of those employed in industry and seven percent of those in services.

The ILO's 2016 World Employment and Social Outlook (WESO) called for the creation of more decent jobs in the formal sector, arguing that reducing poverty requires formal-sector jobs that offer minimum wages, pensions and other work-related benefits. It foresees a virtuous circle that involves registering informal firms, improving their wages and working conditions, and expanding the tax base. However, many informal businesses would not survive the additional tax, accounting and other obligations that come with registration, creating a potential trade off between the number of jobs and the number of formal-sector jobs.

The WESO focused on how to reduce extreme poverty in agriculture, stressing three options: raise productivity on farms, move farmers into higher-wage nonfarm jobs, or extend government social protections to farmers and their families. Half of residents of many African and Asian countries are employed in agriculture, and one path to development is industrialization in urban areas that attracts farmers and their families, so that farmers move to cities and enjoy higher wage jobs in factory jobs and better education and health care for their children.

The ILO notes that the distribution of land is much more equal in Africa and Asia than in Latin America, enabling productivity increases to benefit more small farmers in Africa and Asia.

However, many developing countries have relatively small factory sectors offering middle-class jobs to those with little education. Some governments tax poor farmers by charging them high prices for imported inputs such as seeds and fertilizer or by offering low prices for the commodities they produce, and some use taxes on farmers to import food for urban consumers. Such policies increase poverty in rural areas and encourage especially farm youth to seek nonfarm jobs, swelling cities and slums and increasing misery in both rural and urban areas.

Agricultural productivity can be raised by improving irrigation, using new seeds and fertilizers, and improving infrastructure to reduce losses after harvest. However, farmers must often be educated to understand new farming systems, and risks may increase with specialization in higher-value crops. Cooperatives, supply-chain policies and smart-phone apps can help farmers to raise agricultural productivity, but there are often problems in implementation. The ILO believes that contract farming in supply chains aimed at treating small farmers fairly, coupled with cooperatives to improve the knowledge of farmers, can raise the incomes of small farmers.

The WESO highlighted micro enterprises that can provide supplemental work for farmers and their families and improved wages for hired workers. Micro businesses in rural areas usually offer informal jobs, and the ILO urges policies to help them become registered firms that offer decent jobs. However, WESO does not acknowledge any trade off between the number of jobs and the number of decent jobs, that is, some current micro firms are likely to go out of business rather than register and upgrade wages and working conditions.

In most countries, hired farm workers are not (fully) covered by protective labor laws, resulting in few decent farm worker jobs. The ILO urges governments to ratify and implement its conventions aimed at protecting hired farm workers without acknowledging that, if the result is higher labor costs, there could be fewer jobs for hired workers due to mechanization, imports or higher prices and reduced demand.

The WESO concludes with a call for a better world in which farmers are more productive, rural and urban businesses offer decent work, defined as jobs that pay living wages and offer work-related benefits as well as collective bargaining rights to workers, and a government-provided social safety net. The question is where to start to get on the path to this trifecta. The ILO urges governments to make it easier to register informal businesses, to provide them with support so that they can upgrade wages and working conditions, and to ensure that now formalized workers are covered by social security and other safety net programs.

WESO 2016 ends with a plea for better labor administration, including improved employment services and better labor inspection services, improved tax and benefit systems to collect more revenue so that more people can be provided with safety net benefits, and more social dialogue so that unions can press governments to increase spending on social safety net programs.

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