By Simon Roughneen
Jakarta, January 23, 2018
Despite decades of world-beating economic growth that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into middle class life, around 900 million more Asian workers remain in what the International Labour Organization deems “vulnerable” employment.
Vulnerable employment refers to people who lack formal work arrangements or contracts, are often nonsalaried and working part-time in sectors such as agriculture or retail, and are sometimes self-employed. Such workers often can be fired without much notice and subsequently have no access to unemployment benefit.
Although the ILO’s “World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2018” report, issued on Jan. 22, says that unemployment in Asia “should remain low by international standards at 4.2%” as the region is “expected to continue to create jobs at a fast rate,” it also notes that the majority of the world’s 1.4 billion people in vulnerable employment are in Asia.
The global unemployment average for 2017 was 5.6%, with percentages for large, so-called “emerging” Asian economies matching or even bettering those in wealthier counterparts. Unemployment figures in 2017 for China, India and Indonesia were 4.7%, 3.5% and 4.3% respectively, compared with 5.7% in Australia, 2.8% in Japan and 4.4% in the United States.
Some Southeast Asian countries were estimated at having more or less full employment, with Laos on 0.7% unemployment for 2017, Myanmar 0.8%, Thailand 1%, Vietnam 2.1%, and, most strikingly perhaps, Cambodia on 0.2%.