Some 40% of the world's workers are now employed in the services sector, compared with 38.7% in agriculture and 21.3 in industry, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said in its 12-page annual report. Ten years ago, 43.1% of employees worked in agriculture, and only 35.5 in services.
"We do expect the trend to continue," the report's author Dorothea Schmidt told reporters, adding it was likely that in future the services sector would provide more than half of global employment opportunities.
But she cautioned against interpreting the growth in services as an indicator of economic prosperity.
"What is important," Schmidt said, "is to realise that within the services sector you have the whole range of jobs. You have very low productivity jobs and you have extremely high-productivity jobs."
The trend towards work shifting from agriculture to services was particularly pronounced in Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, the report said. Overall employment numbers over the last ten years have been outpaced by population growth, the report noted.
The global work force grew to 2.9 billion last year from about 2.5 billion in 1996. But the number of jobless increased by 33.8 million during that period to hit 195.2 million in 2006.