Vol. 5 Num 1141 Tue. August 14, 2007  

Asia's labour force to grow 200m by 2015: ILO

Asia's economies face the challenge of finding jobs for an extra 200 million workers between now and 2015, according to a new International Labour Organisation (ILO) report out Monday.

It said the region will have its work cut out to improve the quality of jobs on offer and ensure the benefits of Asia's future economic growth are distributed more evenly as the labour force, currently 1.8 billion, increases.

"One thing is clear: doing business as usual is not sustainable over the long term," said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. "Asia is experiencing unprecedented growth and development.

"At the same time, vulnerabilities arising from environmental pressures, economic insecurity, shortcomings in governance and unequal income distribution pose a threat to the region's future development."

"Visions for Asia's Decent Work Decade: Sustainable Growth and Jobs to 2015", has been presented to an ILO Asian Employment Forum in Beijing running from Monday to Wednesday.

Government representatives, trade unionists and employers from some 20 countries in Asia and the Pacific will attend.

The report said the service economy would be the main source of new jobs and by 2015 would have become the biggest single sector employer, representing about 40.7 percent of the region's jobs.

It also predicted the share of industrial jobs would rise from 23.1 percent of the total jobs market in 2006 to 29.4 percent in 2015.

By contrast, agricultural jobs would by 2015 have declined to 29.4 percent of the market from 42.6 percent, said the report.

And that trend from rural to urban jobs would create greater wage inequalities between the classes of workers, part of a broader wage gulf between the extremely poor and other workers.

In fact the report identified the problem of the working poor -- those living on less than two US dollars (1.5 euros) a day--as one of the major challenges facing the region.

More than one billion--61.9 percent of the workforce--still worked in the informal "black" economy with little or no social protection.

While this was down from 67.2 of the workforce a decade earlier, it was still a cause for concern, said the report, especially since it was not expected to fall much further by 2015.

The report identified a number of other challenges facing the region including an ageing labour force, which in some countries meant that as many as one in four people would be over 65 by 2015; -- increasing migration that would see millions of workers quitting Asia in search of jobs; the inability of wage growth to keep pace with labour productivity in some countries; long working hours becoming the norm in many parts of Asia.

"Meeting the challenges facing the region will require far-sighted thinking and careful planning," said Somavia.