A International Labour Organization report projected India’s unemployment rate to have risen to 3.5% in 2017, up from 3.4% that was estimated earlier. The World Employment Social Outlook-Trends 2018 report expects the figures to remain unchanged in 2018 and 2019.

In absolute terms, the United Nations agency expects the number of unemployed people to have risen to 18.3 million in 2017 from an earlier estimate of 17.8 million. In 2018, it is expected to rise to 18.6 million and to 18.9 million in 2019.

However, the ILO said that the Indian economy is expected to expand by 7.4% in 2018, up from 6.7% in 2017, and this would help up pick up economic activity in South Asia. “Real Gross Domestic Product in this region is projected to grow by 6.7% in 2018 and by 7% in 2019, up from 6.2% in 2017,” the UN agency noted.

The ILO warned that high incidence of informality in the economy is hampering attempts to further reduce working poverty in South and South-Eastern Asia. “Indeed, informality affects around 90% of all workers in India, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Nepal.” Informality, the organisation added, is not only pervasive in the agricultural sector but also non-agriculture sectors such as construction, wholesale and retail trade, and accommodation and food service industries.

Globally, the unemployment rate is expected to decline marginally from 5.6% in 2017 to 5.5% in 2018, the report said. “With these improvements in employment projected to be modest, the number of workers in vulnerable forms of employment [own-account workers and contributing family workers] is likely to increase in the years to come,” the agency pointed out.