The Right Global Employment Metric: Payroll to Population

The Right Global Employment Metric: Payroll to Population

by Jim Clifton

Through our World Poll, Gallup learned that what everyone wants the most is a good job. This is the will of the world, and nothing outranks it: not the desire for family, peace, religion, or anything else.

A good job, as defined by Gallup, is one that is 30+ hours a week for an organization from which employees receive a real paycheck. What's not a good job is work that's informal or some form of menial self-employment.

In what is perhaps the world's most pressing problem today, of the 5 billion people age 15 or older, 3 billion want a good job, but there are only 1.2 billion of them to go around -- so there's a shortfall of more than 1.8 billion good jobs.

I tell you all of this because most existing forms of employment data aren't helpful at identifying and tracking this severe problem. That's because those data lump the lousy jobs together with the good ones. This means that when you look at many countries' unemployment figures -- including those reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics -- the percentage seeking employment appears artificially low because the lousy jobs get counted as jobs -- but they're not good jobs at all.

Do you think Guatemala's unemployment rate is really 4%? Or that Iran's is 15%? Our data suggest the real unemployment rates are much, much higher.

Even if we can get more accurate unemployment figures, the information is still incomplete. This is because whether a country thrives and prospers economically -- or faces social unrest and revolution -- is tied directly to whether its citizens have good jobs, as opposed to just any job at all.

To shine a light on countries' real employment rate situations, Gallup is announcing today a new global standard. We call it "Payroll to Population" (P2P) and we think it will be the gold standard of employment metrics.

Payroll to Population is the right metric to track a country's success or failure to develop real job growth.

We take the total number of people who actually hold a full-time job and report it as a percentage of the total population of adults aged 15 years and older. What makes this new standard a superior metric to classic, outdated unemployment figures is that the percentage of good jobs is a stronger indicator of real economic energy because it doesn't get influenced by the ever-fluctuating "size of workforce" variable.

Gallup's lead story today is our first report on Payroll to Population employment rates by country. This methodological breakthrough now advances the science of world leadership and real human development for the most serious of statistics -- having a good job, which is the very will of the world.

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