It’s the quality, not the quantity of jobs that Asia should be focusing on, says ILO report

Author: PM editorial | Date: 18 Jan 2017

More than half of workers are in vulnerable forms of employment

Global GDP growth is expected to pick up slightly this year after hitting a six-year low in 2016. But questions remain over whether this will be enough to generate a sufficient number of jobs and improve the quality of employment for those with a job, says the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) 2017 World Employment and Social Outlook report.
 
For Asia, the challenge lies in the quality of employment, as stronger economic growth than the global average (around three per cent) coincides with ongoing structural changes, says the ILO. It is not a lack of jobs that is a concern but the conditions of those jobs.
 
“Accounting for nearly 60 per cent of the global workforce, Asia Pacific’s net employment expanded by over 20 million in 2016, equivalent to growth of around 1.1 per cent, with a similar expansion anticipated in 2017,” said the report. However, at the same time, the region “accounts for around 63.5 per cent of the world’s working poor - those living on less than US$3.10 per day.”
 
While working conditions are much improved, as seen in developments such as the adoption of flexible working hours for all staff by Telstra in Hong Kong or greater access to maternity leave for non-permanent workers in Singapore, the ILO report suggests there is still plenty to be done.
 
This is also the case with female participation in the workforce, says the ILO. In southern Asia, only 28.5 per cent of working-age women are active in the labour market. And 81.7 per cent of women employed in southern Asia are in vulnerable forms of employment – jobs subject to high levels of precariousness or with limited access to contributory social protection schemes – compared to only 72.4 per cent of their male counterparts.
 
“As the institutional environment improves across most countries, the scope for regular and/or more formal employment arrangements grows,” said the report. “Such developments are important in a region where less than half of workers are in wage or salaried employment, and more than half of workers are in vulnerable forms of work.”