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Top 10 Countries With the Highest Unemployment Rates

Margaret has a bachelor's degree in International and European Studies. She has thoroughly studied global economy, history and development.


A country's employment rate is one of the most important indicators of its general economic welfare and development. The term "unemployment" refers to a country's economic situation where its people are unable to find a job, no matter how hard they try to and has multiple causes as well as multiple consequences.

Nowadays, unemployment is one of the most crucial issues worldwide, especially among young adults. It needs to be mentioned that it knows no boundaries: it affects all developed, developing, and least-developed countries.

In this article, I chose to present the top 10 countries with the highest unemployment rates for two different age groups: individuals aged 15–24 and people aged 25–54. The data were taken from OECD's database, an intergovernmental organization that has been collecting data from 36 different countries on numerous fields, unemployment being one of them.

Of all aspects of social misery, nothing is so heartbreaking as unemployment.

— Jane Addams

How Is the Unemployment Rate Calculated?

In regards to a country's unemployment rate, it is measured as the number of its unemployed people, divided by the total number of its people who are in the labor force. According to OECD, in order to be defined as unemployed, one has to:

  • Be aged 15 and over.
  • Be neither in paid employment nor in self-employment.
  • Be available for work during the reference period.

Countries With the Highest Unemployment Rates Among 15-24 Year-Olds

CountryUnemployment Rate in 2019Unemployment Rate in 2020


32,6 %

38,3 %


35,3 %

35,0 %


29,2 %

29,3 %


20,8 %

27,5 %


25,4 %

25,2 %


18,6 %

24,8 %


19,9 %

23,8 %


18,3 %

22,9 %


16,6 %

22,4 %


17,0 %

21,0 %

Highest Unemployment Rates for Ages 15–24

As we can see, the countries located in Southern Europe dominate the list of the countries with the highest unemployment rates among individuals aged 15–24. Spain came second in 2019 with an employment rate of 32,6 % but as of 2020, has the highest unemployment rate equal to 38,3 %.

Greece, which had the highest unemployment rate in 2019 (35,3 %) now occupies second place in our list, with an unemployment rate equal to 35,0 %. It is followed by Italy and Colombia with an unemployment rate of 29,2% in 2019 & 29,3 % in 2020 and 20,8 % in 2019 & 27,5 % in 2020, respectively.

Turkey comes next, with an unemployment rate of 25,4 % in 2019, and 25,2 % in 2020. Chile is the 6th country on our list with an unemployment rate equal to 18,6 % in 2019 and 24,8 % in 2020.

The 7th and 8th places belong to Sweden and Portugal. The first had an unemployment rate of 19,9 % in 2019, which increased to 23,8 % in 2020. Portugal's unemployment rate also increased from 18,3 % in 2019 to 22,9 % in 2020.

Last, we have Luxembourg and Finland. Luxembourg had an unemployment rate of 16,6 % in 2019, which increased to 22,4 % in 2020, making it 9th on our list, whereas Finland left 17,0 % of its total labour force unemployed in 2019 and 21,0% in 2020.

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Unemployment is like a headache or a high temperature -- unpleasant and exhausting but not carrying in itself any explanation of its cause.

— William Henry Beveridge

Countries With the Highest Unemployment Rates Among 25-74 Year-Olds

CountryUnemployment rate in 2019Unemployment rate in 2020


16,4 %

15,5 %


12,8 %

14,0 %


8,4 %

13, 9 %


11,5 %

11,0 %


6,1 %

9,6 %


8,8 %

8,1 %


4,8 %

7,9 %


5,9 %

7,7 %


5,8 %

7,7 %

United States

3,0 %

7,1 %

Highest Unemployment Rates for Ages 25-74

In this second age group, the countries remain the same, with some exceptions, but the rates are significantly lower.

First on the list is Greece, with an unemployment rate of 16,4 % in 2019 and 15,5 % in 2020. Greece is followed by Spain, which left 12,8 % of its total labor force unemployed in 2019 and 14,0 % in 2020. Then, we have Colombia, a country that besides being 3rd on our list, also experienced a significant increase in its unemployment rate (from 8,4 % in 2019 to 13,9 % in 2020).

Colombia is followed by Turkey and Chile. Although Turkey's unemployment rate slightly decreased from 11,5 % in 2019 to 11,0 % in 2020, Chile's significantly increased from 6,1 % in 2019 to 9,6 % in 2020. Italy comes 6th, whose unemployment rate dropped from 8,8 % in 2019 to 8,1 % in 2020, followed by Canada, whose unemployment rate, contrary to Italy's increased from 4,8 % to 7,9 %.

Lastly, we have three countries with similar unemployment rates: Latvia, Lithuania, and United States. Latvia left 5,9 % of its total labor force unemployed in 2019 and 7,7 % in 2020; the same is true for Lithuania, which exhibited an unemployment rate of 5,8 % in 2019 and 7,7 % in 2020. The United States, which is 10th among the countries with the highest unemployment rates showed an unemployment rate of 3,0 % in 2019, which increased to 7,1 % in 2020.


What Causes Unemployment?

Unemployment's roots can be found in a number of causes, the most important of which are:

  • Increased population.
  • Uneducated/unqualified human resources.
  • The rapid development and spread of technology.
  • A great number of low-wage jobs/job dissatisfaction.
  • Discrimination.

Specifically, the more increased a country's population is, the bigger the demand for work will be, which makes it difficult for any country to create enough job opportunities. On the other hand, people's lack of education, skills, or qualifications, along with a number of technological innovations that have replaced humans in tasks that previously required a physical presence can also be held responsible for those high unemployment rates.

Lastly, people's unwillingness to settle on low-wage jobs or experiencing discrimination due to their gender, age, race, religion, or sexual orientation are also factors that contribute to unemployment.

Dealing With Unemployment

If you've ever been unemployed for a long time, you know how anxious and depressing a period might be. I live in Greece, which, as you can understand, means I've struggled with unemployment a lot throughout my life.

Here are two books that helped me get through those periods without losing my mind: The first one, proved to be a helpful guide on how to turn the shock of unemployment into creating a plan to change my circumstances, whereas the second one, gave me a lot of great hints and tips on overcoming stress and keeping myself happy on my way to finding a secure job.

I hope they will be helpful to you as well.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Margaret Pan

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