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Asia beset by highest ever unemployment, says UN

Asia beset by highest ever unemployment, says UN labour group

13 September 2005 – Unemployment reached a new record high in Asia, job growth remained disappointing, and low wages failed to raise the living standard of many despite a robust economy that grew more than 7.3 per cent in 2004, the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) said in a report issued on the eve of the UN World Summit.

“The new ILO study provides a stark analysis of the growing 'employment gap' in the Asia region,” and the creation of new jobs has failed to keep pace with the region’s impressive economic growth, said an ILO statement. What’s more, employment in the region during 2003-2004 increased by only 1.6 per cent while the total GDP for the region grew by almost five times that amount.

During the same time period, the total unemployed edged up by half a million, reaching 78 million, the fifth consecutive increase since 1999.

Overall, more than 2 billion people in Asia earn less than $2 a day, and of those, 690 million earn less than $1 a day, and are defined as living in “extreme poverty,” according to the report titled “Labour and Social Trends in Asia and the Pacific 2005”. The report estimated that 355 million people in the region are “working poor,” or those that work very hard for very long hours and do not earn enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

The report also identified major trends that add to the stark employment statistics, including the continued high use of child labor while in “cruel irony” 49 per cent of youths aged 15 to 24 are unemployed, though they only represent 20 per cent of the population.

Meanwhile, young children in the region have the lowest school attendance rate, representing 48 per cent of the primary schoolchildren worldwide who are not enrolled. The links between continued child labour and poverty “are clear”, the report added.

Women were also big losers on the labor front, because women have fewer opportunities to work and are paid less for the same work, girls have lower participation rates in schools, and young women have even lower employment rates than young men. As a result, “many countries, especially those in South Asia, are also unlikely to meet the third [Millenium Development Goal (MDG)] on gender equality and the empowerment of women.”

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