Asia has been struggling to recover from a financial crisis that rocked the region 4 years ago. But that recovery is on shaky ground as the global economic downturn throws more people out of work and into uncertainty. The International Labour Organization opens a four-day conference in the region to shore up recovery as ILO TV explains.
For Rasamee Supa Aim, every step is a step forward on her personal road to recovery. Crushed as she fled a terrible factory fire in Thailand, she is regaining the use of her legs, taking her life forward, step by step,
Rasamee Supa Aim, disabled worker
I have to start all over from the beginning. I have to study and learn how I can recover from this accident and live again.
Her story is a symbol for Asia as an atmosphere of recovery fills the region today. But even as workers rush to fill the jobs created by a global economy, memories of the financial crisis read like this morning’s headlines. Like a frenzied tiger, it ravaged one economy after another. 30 million jobs were lost as the dark side of globalization was dramatically exposed. Social safety nets, where they existed, buckled under the strain. Few countries had unemployment insurance. The financial and human misery flowed across more borders as the crisis tore at the thin fabric of worker’s rights.
According to a new report from the International Labour Organization, the ILO, the Asian crisis was a catalyst for change, but a deficit of decent work remains. Unemployment is growing. Social protection is less than 10 percent of GDP in most countries. Safety standards, especially in agriculture and small enterprises need greater attention. Awareness of workers’ rights is more widespread, though recognition is uneven. Informal, casual and own-account work is on the rise. But poverty, which affects 700 million in the region is the biggest challenge.
Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate
If there is hunger and poverty in the world, the biggest reason for poverty and hunger are in the domain of the ILO. So it is really dealing with the central asset that all human beings have, namely an ability to work, and to labour and therefore, ILO’s role has to be central in that.
The ILO is already active in the region, sponsoring projects such as those that rescue child football stitchers in Pakistan or making microcredit available to former bonded laborers in Nepal. It offers technical assistance in countries like Cambodia and political mediation to stop forced labour in Myanmar.
At its regional meeting in Bangkok, the ILO will focus on ways of reducing the deficit of decent work in Asia. High growth in East Asia has led to job creation. But growth is sustainable only when coupled with training. Reaching those in the informal sector and encouraging small enterprises, respect for workers rights and social dialogue, eliminating child labour and forced labour, insuring access to social protection at home and in the workplace. All these are essential for decent work and a sustainable recovery.