Labour Trends;Asia

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 

Republic.

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.

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