In 1992, then-president of the United States George H.W. Bush was running for reelection to the White House. Just a year before, his approval rating stood at a high of 90 percent. With presidential elections just around the corner, however, the unemployment rate was at 7.5 percent, the worst level during the mild downturn of the economy from 1991 to 1992. Still, it was enough for the campaign strategist of the challenger from the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton, to zero in with the tagline “The economy, stupid!”
This later evolved into the catchphrase “It’s the economy, stupid!” With Americans fearing further loss of employment, Bush’s rating plummeted to 64 percent of the people disapproving of the way he was running the country.
It just goes to show that the bottomline for any government is the ability to provide its people with gainful employment. You can throw out all the government has achieved and all the other economic numbers because the only thing that would really matter at the end of the day is the level of employment of the people.
Different countries have different ways of reporting unemployment. Unbelievable as it may seem, North Korea actually claims it has a full employment rate. Adjusting the ways that countries report their employment levels by using common concepts will allow us to properly compare numbers and figures. Based on this, here is a list of the top 10 countries with the highest unemployment rate. And that 7.5 percent that got Americans panicky back in 1992 seem to be heaven compared to the numbers you are about to see.
10. Nepal – 46 percent
The economy of Nepal has suffered because of uncertainty in the political front. Kings ruled the country from the 18th century to the beginning of the 21st century. In 2008, the monarchy was abolished in favor of a federal multiparty representative democracy. While the government has slowly made headways in the fight against poverty, unemployment still hovers to a number around half the working-age population. Many of its citizens have gone abroad to look for work, including soldiers who serve in the armies of India and the United Kingdom.
9. Senegal – 48 percent
The West African country of Senegal has always dealt with high unemployment that has resulted into a large disparity between the country’s rich and poor. Senegal relies heavily on aid from other countries and organizations. Japan, France and China have supported the country through donations and loans. The United States Agency for International Development is also heavily involved.
8. Namibia – 51.2 percent
The economy of Namibia is heavily tied to that of South Africa because of the shared history of the two countries. While Namibia has a highly developed banking sector and modern infrastructure, it also has a high unemployment rate that is further exacerbated by discrimination against pregnant women and those afflicted with HIV/AIDS. Its economy is heavily reliant on mining, herding and agriculture.
7. Djibouti – 59 percent
Djibouti is strategically located as a transit point in the Red Sea. It is also considered as an international transshipment center and refueling hub. Still, the country is heavily dependent on the services sector. Its government has been trying to diversify the economy to create more job opportunities. It has been building infrastructure and telecommunication facilities. It is also actively supporting small businesses, fishing and agro-processing.
6. Tajikistan – 60 percent
Tajikistan used to be part of the old Soviet Union. After the union’s collapse, Tajikistan went through a bloody civil war. It is now the poorest among all the former Soviet republics, and is also the poorest in all of Central Asia. It suffers from economic mismanagement, corruption and uneven reforms.
5. Mozambique – 60 percent
Mozambique was once considered as a prime example of a country that recovered because of aid measures by foreign donors and the World Bank. Over a period of more than a decade at the turn of the century, its average growth rate was more than eight percent. Yet, Mozambique still is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped in the world, with 88 percent of its land still uncultivated despite being arable.
4. Zimbabwe – 70 percent
One man, Robert Mugabe, has ruled Zimbabwe since it achieved independence in 1980. Mismanagement, corruption and involvement in the war in nearby Democratic Republic of Congo contributed to inflation and shortages in supply and foreign exchange. A controversial land redistribution policy that evicted more than 4,000 Caucasian farmers also became a factor in the economy’s collapse.
3. Turkmenistan – 70 percent
Turkmenistan has the fourth largest reserves of natural gas in the world. Its economy, however, is hampered by the lack of diversity as natural gas is its only commodity. To worsen things, it does not have natural export routes for the product. Most of its gas goes through Russian-owned companies. It does subsidize its people heavily, however, with supplies of petrol, water, salt, electricity and natural gas.
2. Vanuatu – 78.21 percent
The economy of Vanuatu relies heavily on agriculture. There is a lack of employment opportunities in the urban areas and in industries. Markets are also quite inaccessible. Families, therefore, have been forced to live in self-reliant and subsistence modes, placing great pressure on the ecosystem. Freshwater is scarce and watersheds are degraded. The country is also increasingly becoming deforested because of slash-and-burn agriculture. Even near-shore species of fishes have been rapidly depleted as 90 percent of the country’s household fish for consumption. While there have been reforms introduced, poor infrastructure and weak governance have discouraged foreign investors, which are deemed crucial to provide employment.
1. Nauru – 90 percent
Nauru used to have the highest per capita income in the world. It was dependent entirely on phosphate deposits from the droppings of sea birds, however. The phosphate reserves have now dried out and only a tenth of its population is gainfully employed. Of the number, the government employs 95 percent. It does not have any real alternative to phosphate mining, thus, rendering the outlook of its citizens dim. The country depends heavily on Australia to keep its economy afloat.
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