Employees / Pexels

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), an agency within the United Nations (UN), has affirmed that it is integral to understand the dynamics of population trends in order address present employment challenges.

This was highlighted in a blog post by the ILO on Tuesday, ahead of World Population Day, an annual event that is observed on 11th July (today). The event aims to raise awareness of a number of global population issues, with the theme for this year being “leave no one behind, count everyone.”

According to recent estimates by the UN, the current world population stands at around 8.1 billion, and it is expected to reach 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050.

Locally, data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) highlighted that at the end of 2023, Malta and Gozo’s total population amounted to 563,443, an increase of 3.9 per cent when compared to the previous year.

In her analysis of population trends, Marie-Claire Sodergren, Senior Economist within the ILO’s Department of Statistics, noted that it is crucial for everyone to understand different demographic dynamics in order to foster inclusive and sustainable global growth.

“World Population Day serves as a timely reminder of the importance of proactive policies and investments in preparing for demographic changes and that employment-sensitive policies matter,” she added.

She analysed how many developing countries are experiencing youth bulges, where they have a high proportion of individuals under the age of 25. In low-income countries, this age group represents a staggering 61 per cent of the population, in sharp contrast to 27 per cent in high-income countries.

Marie-Claire Sodergren / LinkedIn
ILO Department of Statistics Senior Economist Marie-Claire Sodergren / LinkedIn

“On one hand, a large youth population can drive economic growth if young people are well-integrated into the labour market. On the other hand, it requires significant job creation, education, and training programmes to avoid high levels of youth not in employment, education, or training (NEET),” Ms Sodergren commented.

However, more than a quarter of youth aged 15-25 are NEET in low-income countries.

In contrast to this, many developed countries are experiencing ageing populations as a result of declining birth rates and increasing life expectancy.

This leads to challenges linked to healthcare, pension systems, as well as labour force dynamics, such as having older persons stay in the labour market for longer periods, Ms Sodergren said.

The NSO results stated that resident live births in 2023 increased by 3.6 per cent over the previous year, while resident deaths decreased by 4.7 per cent.

Another trend that Ms Sodergren identified is urbanisation, with more people living in cities than ever before. This has an effect on employment patterns, especially the rise of services and industries in urban areas when compared to agriculture-based economies in rural regions.

“Urbanisation can create new job opportunities and drive economic development, but it also requires policies to manage the transition and ensure that urban growth is inclusive and sustainable,” she affirmed.

She also noted that it is particularly important to consider global migration trends, driven by current demographic trends. These contrast economic opportunities, climate change and humanitarian factors, and significantly influence population dynamics and labour markets worldwide.

In her analysis, she said that in 45 out of 148 countries with available data, at least 10 per cent of the labour force consists of foreign-born individuals or foreign citizens.

Malta placed fifth in the list, with 39 per cent of its labour force being international migrants, according to ILO’s statistics. Oman (65 per cent), Luxembourg (60 per cent), Montserrat (49 per cent), and Guinea-Bissau (46 per cent) were the only countries in the study that had a higher percentage.

“International migrants are often drawn by the promise of better job opportunities, safety and security, and higher standards of living in destination countries,” Ms Sodergren said, before noting that high-income countries also host over two-thirds of the 169 million international migrant workers globally.

International migrant workers serve a crucial role in various sectors, ranging from healthcare and hospitality to construction and manufacturing. This is also the case for Malta, with business leaders in the aforementioned sectors often highlighting the struggles to find local talent.

Two other important themes for World Population Day 2024 are gender equality and family planning. While women make up around half of the global population, they have lower labour force participation rates than men.

“Unsurprisingly, mothers of young children significantly reduce their labour force participation compared to women in households without young children. In contrast, men’s participation rates show much smaller changes when they become fathers,” Ms Sodergren stated.

She affirmed that these disparities lead to significant gender gaps in labour force participation. Additionally, there is also a discrepancy when it comes to the wages of mothers and non-mothers, which is particularly substantial in certain countries.

“Traditional gender roles not only affect childcare responsibilities, but also influence women’s career choices, opportunities for leadership roles, and access to education and training,” she continued, before noting that in many countries, women remain under-represented in managerial positions.

Ms Sodergren explained that in order to address these gender disparities, there has to be a dismantling of traditional gender norms, and to instead foster inclusive employment policies and workplaces.

“Empowering women, who comprise half of the world’s population, to participate fully in the workforce can unlock greater potential for sustainable growth and social progress,” she stated.

She concluded that by examining how the aforementioned demographic changes can impact labour markets, one can be better prepared for the future and be able to create “more inclusive and sustainable employment opportunities” on the road towards social justice.

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