BANGKOK(ILO News) - Development in South-East Asia and the Pacific has been less impressive than elsewhere in Asia and the region faces some pressing challenges, notably the problems of young people looking for work, according to the ILO’s 2008 Global Employment Trends (GET).
For four consecutive years GDP growth has been 6 per cent or more, the report says, and the region has benefited from the economic boom in China and India . Unemployment rates in the region as a whole are comparably low and have stabilized in recent years. The proportion of people in extreme poverty – earning US$1 per day or less – almost halved, down from 24.1 per cent in 1997 to 13.4 per cent in 2007.
Nevertheless more than half of workers, 138 million people, remain trapped in so-called working poverty, earning less than US$2 per day. What’s more, almost 6 out of 10 workers are still in vulnerable employment (non formal work such as unpaid family work or own-account work).
The situation of young people has become the most pressing challenge, the report’s authors say. For those under 25 the risk of being unemployed in this region is almost five times that of an adult. In the decade to 2007 the youth unemployment rate rose 6.3 percentage points, the highest increase in the world, to the current level of 16.3 per cent. There is also a widening gap between the expectations of educated young people and the quality of the jobs available for them. The consequent discouragement they experience will place a heavy strain on future development.
Labour productivity growth over the past decade has been slower than in other parts of Asia . Consequently the region’s productivity levels have now overtaken by East Asia .
The move out of agriculture and into the services and industry sectors has also been slower than in other regions of Asia . In 2007, 43.9 per cent of workers were still in agriculture, just 4.8 per cent less than 10 years ago. Only South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have higher proportions of their workforce still in agriculture.
Social protection schemes and safety nets are more important than ever, the report says, especially for the young generation given the unemployment challenge they face.
Creating enough decent jobs presents a challenge, given that the region overall does not have an advantage in either cheap labour or productivity levels. “As only higher productivity can insure decent work growth, there is a strong need to focus on improving productivity through education and skills development”, the report says. It also notes that the situation is especially challenging in the Pacific Island States where living standards have actually deteoriated in many countries.
South-East Asia: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam. Pacific Islands: American Samoa, Cook islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, North Mariana Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna Islands,
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