Countries with the highest unemployment rate

In 2017, Burkina Faso had the highest unemployment rate in the world, at 77 percent. This means that for every 100 members of the workforce, 77 did not have jobs at the time of the survey. Of the 20 countries in this statistic, each had a ratio of more than 1 in 4 workers without a job.

What exactly is unemployment?

The unemployment rate is the number of people in the workforce divided by the number of people looking for jobs but not working. This number does not include students and retirees, because they are not looking for work. It also does not include people who have given up on finding a job, called discouraged workers. Youth unemployment can be particularly troubling because a gap in employment early in a person’s career leads to lower wages for that person’s entire life.

Causes of unemployment in less developed countries

A major driver in unemployment in these countries is conflict. In particular, internally displaced persons (IDPs) want to work, but moving to another part of the country disrupts their business network and moves them into a local economy with different labor demand. Countries with low levels of economic development, as roughly indicated by a low GDP per capita, often have fewer labor market opportunities, leading to high unemployment rates.

The 20 countries with the highest unemployment rate in 2017

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Release date




Survey time period


Supplementary notes

The periods during which the data were collected vary considerably. See source for more detailed information. The source shows variation in collection periods because in some cases no continuous survey was carried out. The data are predominantly estimations.

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