Building a sustainable future with decent work in Asia and the Pacific
The 15th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting provides an opportunity to review progress in the implementation of the Asian Decent Work Decade, taking into account the new developments, and to share experiences and lessons learned.
It has recovered strongly from the global economic and financial crisis and is today playing a critical role in holding up a fragile global economy. In 2010, economic growth in the region is estimated to have reached 7.5 per cent, compared to 2.6 per cent growth in the United States and 1.7 per cent growth in the Euro area. Nonetheless, the dynamism of the region has not spared it from the negative impact of the imbalances of globalization. In 2007, before the crisis, 87 million of the region’s workforce was unemployed – but by 2010 the number had grown to 92 million.
Macroeconomic policy should also respond to women’s rights. In Asia and the Pacific, for example, they generally earn 54–90 per cent of men’s wages. At present policy-makers seldom consider women as dynamic economic agents in their own right, generally assuming that they will be their households’ secondary income earners. Women’s employment is also constrained by socio-cultural norms. In reality, in East Asia and South-East Asia in particular, export-led growth has largely been based on cheap and flexible female labour, particularly for the manufacture of garments, electronics and toys. Many women also work intensively in the informal economy and agriculture, often as unpaid family workers.
It is interesting in this respect to examine developments in China, which, alongside its rapid growth, have been building labour market institutions for its 800 million strong workforce. China’s income inequality is now among the highest in Asia, and the urban–rural income divide is among the widest in the world. The wage share of GDP declined from 52 per cent in 1999 to 40 per cent in 2007, while private consumption declined from 47 per cent to 37 per cent of GDP over the same period.
Constituents in the region also recognized that, in order to deliver the Asian Decent Work Decade successfully, the economic, social and environmental goals needed to be pursued in a coherent and mutually supportive manner.