Worldwide, 40% Are Employed Full Time for an Employer

by Jon Clifton and Jenny Marlar

New measure of good jobs is more clearly related to GDP than unemployment

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Forty percent of the global workforce was employed full time for an employer in 2009 and 2010, according to Gallup surveys from 129 countries and areas. Nineteen percent were underemployed, including 7% who were unemployed.


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These are the first results Gallup has released from its newly developed global unemployment measures. Based on a series of employment questions Gallup asks respondents in surveys conducted at least once per year in most countries, Gallup quantifies the percentage of the global, regional, and country-level workforce that is employed full time for an employer, underemployed, and unemployed. Together, these metrics paint an unprecedented picture of the state of employment worldwide based on data that are easily comparable across countries. The results reported in this article represent an aggregate of data collected in 2009 and 2010.

Gallup's Employed Full Time for an Employer Index quantifies the percentage of workers in good jobs, rather than subsistence jobs that do little to raise individuals out of poverty or contribute to the country's formal economic output.

The Employed Full Time for an Employer Index has a strong, positive relationship with GDP per capita, meaning that countries with a higher percentage of workers employed full time for an employer tend to have higher GDP per capita. Gallup's Underemployment Index also has a strong negative relationship with GDP per capita. That is, countries with high underemployment tend to have lower GDP per capita. When examined across countries, Gallup research has found no relationship between unemployment rates and GDP per capita.

In many developing countries, unemployment is often relatively low, particularly compared with that in developed economies, because it takes into account people who are doing whatever work they can find to get by or are self-employed in subsistence jobs. Economically developed countries are more likely to have larger percentages of the workforce employed for an employer, but these percentages vary by country.

Regionally, sub-Saharan Africa has the smallest percentage of its workforce working full time for an employer, with nearly one in five reporting that they have a full-time job with an employer. Asia follows, with more than one-third of its workforce working for an employer. Countries in the former Soviet Union region have the largest percentage of the workforce working full time for an employer.


Underemployment is highest in sub-Saharan Africa. The relatively low number of individuals working for an employer and high number of underemployed underscores the economic woes in the region and that good jobs are needed.

Gallup's Underemployment Index captures traditional unemployment, as well as those who are employed part-time but seeking additional work. Traditional unemployment measures classify an individual as employed if he or she works for even a few hours a week. However, this does not tell the true story of employment status. The availability of part-time work may disguise an underlying lack of full-time jobs, which goes undetected with unemployment measures. Gallup's underemployment measure is a truer depiction of the percentage of the workforce that is not working at its desired capacity.


Global leaders today are making job creation a top priority. But until now, they did not have the measures they needed to determine whether they are creating good jobs.

Gallup's new Employed Full Time for an Employer Index measures the availability of quality jobs, and Gallup's Underemployment Index provides a true picture of the global workforce working at its desired capacity. Worldwide leaders can use these measures to track their progress toward increasing the number of quality jobs available, the percentage of workers employed in those jobs, and, in turn, their nation's GDP.

Explore the complete data in Gallup's Global Employment Tracking Interactive.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, per survey administration. Interviews were conducted in 129 countries throughout 2009 and 2010. In many countries, the data have been aggregated. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±1.4 in India to a high of ±4.7 in Latvia. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of survey data.

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