MANILA: Asia is likely to have 7.2 million more jobless people in 2009 than last year due to fallout from the global economic crisis, raising the
region’s jobless rate to 5.1%, the International Labour Organization said on Wednesday. It forecast the ranks of unemployed workers would likely balloon to 97 million in 2009 in Asia, the world economy’s star performer in recent years but where a third of the population still live on a little over $1 a day. Last year, the unemployment rate was 4.8%. In the most pessimistic scenario, the number of unemployed could swell to 113 million, or 22.3 million more than last year, the ILO said in a report on the crisis’ fallout in Asia.
An estimated 51 million new jobs will be needed this year and next to absorb Asia’s growing labour force, with most jobs needed in the region’s giant economies, 20.3 million in India, 10.9 million in China and 3.6 million in Indonesia.
Countries with the highest rates of expected labour force growth through 2010 include Pakistan at 6.1%, Cambodia at 4.9%, and the Philippines at 4.9%.
“There is very little chance that a sufficient number of new jobs will be created in the region this year to keep up with expected labour force growth,” the report added.
As fewer jobs are created at home, remittances from the region’s army of migrant workers began to slow in the third quarter of 2008.
The Geneva-based ILO said the World Bank now forecasts an overall drop in remittances in 2009 _ partly due to the deep recession in the US, which accounts for 44% of workers’ money sent to East Asia and the Pacific, and 28% to South Asia.
“As global demand for workers contracts, the flow of migrant workers from developing Asia will moderate in 2009,” the report said. “For labour-sending countries, this will exacerbate the challenge of mitigating job losses and generating new employment domestically.”
Remittances comprise a third of gross domestic product in Tonga, 17% in Nepal, 11% in the Philippines, 9.7% in Bangladesh and 8.3% in Sri Lanka.
Declining production will also see a shift to informal, more vulnerable work that does not provide protection in case of job loss or illness, the report added.
It said the number of vulnerable Asian workers, estimated at 1.08 billion in 2008, could rise this year by 21 million, and in an extreme case, by 61 million.
“The poor face a double crisis, high costs for basic necessities on which they spend the majority of their income, along with economic stagnation that threaten their livelihoods,” the ILO said.
Promoting employment and supporting household purchasing power is critical for any stimulus package, as these will drive domestic consumption needed to quickly bolster growth, it added.