Joblessness Highest Since Depression, World Body Claims

* One month before a giant United Nations-sponsored ``social summit'' convenes to address global joblessness, the International Labor Organization (ILO) says the world is in the midst of the worst employment crisis since the Great Depression.

In a report released Wednesday, the Geneva-based group says 820 million people worldwide are currently jobless or underemployed. Double-digit unemployment now exists in most industrialized and Eastern European nations. In the developing world, formal employment has declined steadily for a decade.

Only a handful of nations have unemployment rates of less than six percent, led by Japan at 2.8 percent.

Short of significant changes in economic policy, nationally and internationally, ``growth will not be sufficient to cure Europe's endemic employment ills, reverse the decline in real US incomes, halt the spread of poverty and underemployment in developing countries, or prevent the marginalization of an entire continent - Africa,'' says the report, entitled ``World Employment 1995.''

More than 150 nations will attend the World Summit for Social Development next month in Cophenhagen. In addition to joblessness, the conference will address the problems of poverty and social injustice.

The key to dealing with all three will be stronger economic growth. And the keys to stronger economic growth, says the ILO report, will be stimulating the production of manufactured goods for export and liberalizing the world trade system.

The report estimates that tariff cuts prescribed in the new General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) will lead to a 20 percent increase in world trade.

The global employment picture can also be brightened if, among other things, nations stabilize financial markets, lower long-term interest rates, and reduce nonwage labor costs, the report says.

In good news for the Clinton administration, the ILO says the existence of a minimum wage has a negligible effect on employment. Clinton has recently proposed increasing the US minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.15 per hour.

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