As the US moves into recession, unemployment is expected again to spiral upward, perhaps reaching 8.5 percent or more by next spring. The US jobless rate for September was 7.5 percent. Meanwhile, high unemployment, particularly among youths, continues to beset the European industrial nations. It is also a challenge in the third world. But it is vital that nations and individuals recognize that solutions are available.
Clearly, the major industrial societies, if they are to ensure political and social stability, will have to confront the problem and do so imaginatively.
Some industrial nations, such as Canada and to an extent France, now are starting to address the issue. But policymakers in most Western nations have tended to view unemployment as but one facet of larger economic difficulties.
What needs to be done? The first step, perhaps, is to put the problem in perspective by understanding these factors:
* The starting point, according to most economists, is to differentiate between unemployment in the Western industrial nations and the third-world or developing nations. To do that is not to slight or overlook third-world unemployment. But it is to recognize that the prosperity of developing economies is in great part determined by the prosperity of the industrial nations.
* According to the International Labor Office, the world labor force will soar by some 900 million people between the year 1980 and the year 2000. But most of that increase will come in the third world.
* In Europe and the US, the big increase in the worker pool will occur in the current period, through the mid-to-late 1980s, varying with individual countries and stemming largely from the postwar baby boom. The European work force alone will swell by close to 10 million people in the years from 1979 through 1985, compared to a population increase of only about 4.4 million people.
But as the baby boom generation is gradually absorbed into the work stream, a process occurring in the US somewhat ahead of most European nations, the growth in the job force will slow, until in some instances labor shortages will begin to appear in the mid- to late- 1980s. In the US, for example, the total employment force jumped by a 2.5 percent annual rate in the 1970s, largely a result of more women and young people seeking work. That rate is expected to drop to about 1.3 percent in the 1980s.