- Honourable Dr. Sarangi, Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Employment,
- Professor Abhijit Sen, Member of the Planning Commission,
- UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in India, Ms Lise Grande
- Director of the ILO Decent Work Team for South Asia and Country Office for India, Ms Tine Staermose
- Representatives of our social partners, employer and worker organizations,
- Representatives of diplomatic missions and international organizations,
- Distinguished speakers, friends from the media, and colleagues,
GREETINGS AND INTRODUCTION
Good afternoon. It is a pleasure and honour for me to be here today in New Delhi to participate in the Asia-Pacific regional launch of the ILO’s Global Employment Trends 2013 report.
Five years after the outbreak of the global financial crisis, the release of this report is timely and critical. Last year, in 2012, we witnessed a resurgence of the crisis. This was seen in moderating economic growth and an associated worsening of employment opportunities and labour market conditions around the world.
In this context, the Global Employment Trends 2013 report provides the latest global and regional developments and projections on the labour market. And importantly, it also presents a number of policy considerations in light of the new challenges facing policy makers in 2013.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GLOBAL EMPLOYMENT TRENDS 2013 REPORT
Ladies and gentlemen, let me briefly highlight some of the main findings of the report, particularly those that stand out in our regional context. I will be selective, as our ILO experts and authors of the report will provide more detailed discussion and analysis in their presentations that will follow.
First, the global economy decelerated sharply in 2012, driven especially by sluggishness and uncertainty in the advanced economies of Europe, the United States and Japan. Through foreign trade and investment linkages, the slowdown quickly spread to developing economies including in Asia and the Pacific, with spill over effects into our region’s labour markets. Growth also decelerated notably in both China and India, the two giant Asian economies that had been resilient in the face of the global recession.
Second, the impact on the labour market has been detrimental in terms of both employment quantity and quality. Globally, unemployment has risen by 4.2 million to more than 197 million in 2012. Since 2007, before the onset of the global financial crisis, global unemployment has increased by a staggering 28.4 million. During that same period, unemployment has grown by 7 million in East Asia. In South Asia, the unemployment rate has fallen slightly, but, as you know, this is not the best indicator of labour market distress in this region.
Third, young people remain particularly affected by the crisis. Currently, some 73.8 million youth are unemployed globally. In developing Asia and the Pacific, youth account for 33.8 million of the unemployed. While there has been some moderate progress, unemployment rates among youth remain elevated throughout the region. For example, in Indonesia the unemployment rate for young people is a concerning 19 per cent. In Sri Lanka, it is nearly 18 per cent and here in India it is around 10 per cent.
Fourth, the report finds that labour productivity growth has slowed globally. Especially in the South Asia sub-region, the moderation in productivity growth is strongly linked to slow structural change and the insufficient expansion of quality jobs in industry and services. In this regard, around 4 in 10 workers in developing Asia and the Pacific are based in the agricultural sector, where earnings are low and working conditions are poor.
Finally, the report emphasizes that progress in improving job quality has decelerated. This is a tremendous concern for the 1.1 billion vulnerable workers in the region who are self-employed or unpaid family workers with limited security or protection. Furthermore, more than 600 million workers in developing Asia and the Pacific still earn too little to lift themselves above the $2-per-day poverty line. Almost 400 million of these workers are in South Asia.
WAY FORWARD AND KEY POLICY MESSAGES
Ladies and gentleman, despite the uncertain economic and labour market outlook highlighted in the report, Asia appears as a beacon of potential in an increasingly volatile world. As other regions grapple with persistent economic woes, this region is helping to sustain the fragile global recovery.
But Asia and the Pacific can, and must, do more given the significant challenges and risks that lie ahead. The global economic and jobs crisis is driving home the message that we need to re-think the model of growth, towards one that is balanced, inclusive and job-rich.
In this regard, let me underline a few policy priorities which I view as critical for navigating this prolonged global recession and which are also reinforced in this report:
- First, predictable and coherent policies are essential to reduce uncertainty in global markets. This, in turn, would help to increase access to credit and financing for sustainable enterprises, particularly for small and medium sized companies. It could also help boost investments in infrastructure which could spur significant job and productivity growth.
- Second, we are facing a crisis of poor job quality linked to labour market mismatches. To this end, government action is needed to facilitate further structural transformation, support skills development and raise productivity. Equally important, job quality should be improved through higher wages that are commensurate to productivity increases. Together, these efforts could significantly stimulate domestic consumption and economic growth.
- Third, a stronger and urgent response to the youth employment challenge is needed. Underutilization and disengagement of our young people represent a massive waste of potential for our economies and societies. As outlined in the Call for Action at the June 2012 International Labour Conference, policymakers, workers’ and employers organizations must work together to promote better opportunities for our young people.
- Finally, we need to enhance global and regional macroeconomic policy coherence and coordination. Many of the challenges we face in this crisis and the future prosperity of our nations are increasingly intertwined. So ensuring that our national, regional and global policy responses to the global economic recession are coherent and mutually reinforcing is all the more critical.
Ladies and gentlemen, in India and throughout the Asia-Pacific region, the ILO is proud to work hand-in-hand with governments, workers’ and employers organizations towards our shared goal of decent work for all. One critical area of our efforts is supporting policy dialogue and knowledge sharing through evidence-based research and analysis. I sincerely hope that you will find this report a notable contribution to this end and useful in your critical role as policymakers shaping the lives of hundreds of millions of workers and jobseekers.
I would like to thank you again for joining us at this launch event, and I look forward to engaging with you in the policy discussions that will follow.