The region’s strong economic performance in 2007 had a positive impact on its
labour markets. Employment in ASEAN countries increased from 260.6 million
in 2006 to 268.5 million in 2007, an increase of 3 per cent, or 7.9 million additional
jobs. Employment growth was particularly strong in Singapore (6.6 per cent) and
Indonesia (4.7 per cent). The Philippines also experienced buoyant employment
growth of 2.4 per cent.
Some 72 per cent of the region’s job growth in 2007 took place in industry
and services. This played a role in lifting the regional productivity level by 3 per
cent because labour productivity is higher in both industry and services than in
agriculture. And yet, agriculture still accounts for 44.5 per cent of ASEAN’s total
employment, albeit with considerable variation across countries, ranging from less
than 1 per cent in Singapore to over 80 per cent in the Lao’s People Democratic
About 64 per cent of the region’s employment growth in 2007 was in the
form of increased wage employment, which indicates a possible expansion in
formal employment opportunities. Despite this positive trend, the number of
vulnerable workers, measured by own-account workers and unpaid family members
– many of whom work in the informal economy – remained massive. An estimated
161 million workers, or about 60 per cent of the ASEAN workforce in 2007, were
characterized as vulnerable. Women constitute a disproportionately large share of
these vulnerable workers, reflecting their limited employment opportunities.
The regional average also masked significant variation by country. The share
of own-account workers and contributing family workers in total employment,
for example, ranged from over 70 per cent in Cambodia, the Lao People’s
Democratic Republic and Viet Nam to around 50 per cent in Thailand and below
10 per cent in Singapore.
Unemployment shrank by about 550,000, or 3.2 per cent, easing to 16.5
million in 2007. The region’s unemployment rate declined from 6.1 per cent in
2006 to 5.8 per cent in 2007. Much of the improvement comes from positive
developments in Indonesia and the Philippines – two populous countries with
high unemployment rates in recent years. Unemployment in Indonesia dropped
sharply from 10.3 per cent in 2006 to 9.1 per cent in 2007. In the Philippines it
declined from 7.3 per cent to 6.3 per cent.