ASEAN labour and social trends

The report of International Labour Organization from October 2008 notes recent strong economic performance in the ASEAN region’s (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations – a geo-political and economic organization of ten countries located in Southeast Asia:Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam), which resulted in a 3% increase in employment, from 260.6 million in 2006 to 268.5 million in 2007. Over the same period unemployment in the region declined from 6.1% to 5.8% and the region’s very high youth unemployment rate also eased slightly. Despite these positive trends the number of vulnerable workers (measured as own-account workers and unpaid family members) remained massive, at about 60% of the region’s workforce (2007), which is 9,4% higher than vulnerable emplyment at the global level. Women constitute a disproportionately large share of these vulnerable workers, a reflection of their limited employment opportunities. According to ILO, vulnerable employment at the global level accounted for more than half of total employment in 2007 (50.6%), a decline of 0.6 percentage points over the previous year. The report looks ahead to 2015 and while the proportion of those in employment who are classified as vulnerable will decrease, more than half of ASEAN’s workers will remain vulnerable.

We can see that the share of vulnerable employment in total employment is highest in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia and the Pacific, and East Asia. In all these regions the majority of workers do not enjoy the possible security that wage and salary jobs could provide. Taking into account that a wage and salary job in poor regions may still not ensure all the components of a decent job, it becomes understandable that only a minority of working people have a job that is well paid, respects their fundamental rights and ensures some security in case of job loss, personal or family illnesses, or other difficulties. In addition, the global financial crisis, together with high energy and food prices, is expected to lead to weakening domestic and external demand. This in turn is expected to push the region’s unemployment rate up, from 5.8% in 2007 to 6.2% in 2009.

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