GENEVA - More than 86 percent of workers worldwide who lost their jobs after the global economic crisis -- about 34.4 million people -- had no unemployment benefit to fall back on, the International Labour Organization said on Wednesday.
"More than 86 percent of the almost 40 million people who dropped out of the labour market since 2008 found themselves without a regular income from one day to the other,” said ILO social protection expert Florence Bonnet.
The figures, which take into account many young workers who have not paid a sufficient number of social security contributions to receive benefits, form part of an ILO survey showing a stark absence of statutory cover for those who lose their jobs around the world.
Workers' insurance schemes exist in only 72 countries out of 198 surveyed by the Geneva-based agency, and most of them are well-off nations, it said.
Only 16 percent of countries taking part in the poll offer income support for young people looking for their first job, ILO's findings also showed.
In Europe and North America, 80 percent of people without a job receive benefits, while in Africa the proportion is less than 10 percent.
About 114 countries "offer absolutely nothing at all, particularly in Africa", Bonnet said, adding that only six countries on the African continent offered unemployment protection.
South Africa's system was among the most developed, Bonnet added.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, 40 percent of workers have unemployment insurance, dropping to less than 20 percent in the Middle East and Asia.
Asian countries which offered no insurance for the jobless include the Philippines and Indonesia, Bonnet said, insisting that unemployment insurance helped other countries resist economic shocks.
Citing South Korea, which introduced such cover in 1995, ahead of the Asian financial crisis of 1997, Bonnet said this action "helped the country absorb the repercussions of the recent global economic crisis in a more systematic and effective way."