ISLAMABAD: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) in a new report on Monday warned that the Asia-Pacific region still lacks 22 million jobs in 2022, and this number is projected to increase to 26 million in 2023 given the headwinds to growth in the current geopolitical global and regional context.

In its report, “Asia-Pacific Employment and Social Outlook 2022: Rethinking sectoral strategies for a human-centered future of work”, ILO says the employment numbers in the region in 2022 were 2.0 per cent above the pre-Covid-19 crisis level of 2019, recovering from the loss of over 57 million jobs in 2020.

The three largest sectors in terms of employment in the Asia–Pacific region are agriculture, forestry and fishing; manufacturing; and wholesale and retail trade. These sectors together accounted for 1.1 billion workers in 2021, or 60pc of the region’s 1.9 billion workforce.

In Pakistan, the report says during the second quarter of 2019–21, informal employment added 3.5 million persons and the informal employment rate increased from 81.9pc to 83.5pc.

Beyond the geopolitical challenges, the region is also strained by the rising global temperatures and sea levels and extreme weather events that are increasing the incidence of devastating natural disasters.

Recent examples are the flooding in Pakistan and the heat wave that struck several provinces in China. The region is also not spared by economic, political or humanitarian crises, as Afghanistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka demonstrate.

The Asia-Pacific labour markets have recorded a partial rebound from the impact of Covid-19, yet full recovery in the region remains elusive with conditions expected to remain difficult into 2023, the report says.

At the same time, total working hours in the region remained below those of 2019 while the regional unemployment rate in 2022 was 5.2pc, an increase of 0.5 percentage points from 2019.

By 2022, all sub-regions had regained the employment losses of 2020 and were showing positive employment growth over 2019. However, employment growth did not keep pace with population growth. Only in the Pacific was the employment-to-population ratio in 2022 above that of 2019.

“Although Asia-Pacific employment trends look positive, the region’s labour market is not yet back on its pre-crisis track with numerous additional challenges casting shadows on future growth prospects.

It is vital that we bring inclusive and human-centred growth back to the region and not settle for a ‘quasi’ recovery based on informal and poor-quality jobs,” said ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Chihoko Asada Miyakawa.

The report makes a first-time assessment of regional sectoral estimates over a three-decade period from 1991-2021 to highlight which sectors are growing as sources of jobs, which are shrinking and which harbour opportunities for “decent work”.

It reveals that while IT and information services are the region’s fastest-growing sector in terms of employment growth, only 9.4 million persons worked in the sector in 2021, corresponding to just 0.5pc of total employment.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2022

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