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SARID, February 2, 2007

Robust economic growth has not translated into real reductions in poverty or joblessness in South Asia during the period 1996 to 2006, says a new report from the International Labour Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

Global Employment Trends 2007 indicates that an annual GDP growth of 8% has not created enough employment to absorb South Asia’s growing labor force, resulting in a jump in the regional unemployment rate from 4.4% to 5.2%. This reflected the all time high in global unemployment.

At 59.7%, South Asia’s labour force participation rate is relatively low compared with other regions and the global average of 61.4%. This is mainly due to the significant discrepancy between the rates for men (82.2%) and women (36.0%). What makes the situation of women even worse is that despite their low participation, they have a higher risk than men of becoming unemployed: the female unemployment rate in 2006 was 6.2% compared to 4.9% for men. In addition, during the past decade unemployment rates for women increased, rising from 4.9 to 6.2%. Comparatively, the male unemployment rate went up only slightly, from 4.2 to 4.9%.

South Asian countries have tended to be less integrated in global markets and are therefore different from the rest of Asia. South Asia is still strongly dependent on agriculture, which employs roughly half of the working population. Only sub-Saharan Africa employs more in this sector. Furthermore, many of the new jobs created outside agriculture in South Asia are in the informal sector and are not necessarily of better quality than those in agriculture.

But, as is the case in all developing regions, unemployment is only the tip of the iceberg. Even though working poverty has been dramatically reduced in the region – especially in India – at 87.2%, the working poor rates at the US$2 a day level are still very high.

The report recommends that South Asia invest in more education and training as well as in social protection measures such as the security of working arrangements, institution of benefits, decent working conditions and women’s rights.

Only if the region manages to turn growth into decent employment creation will there be enough solid ground for further development, concludes the report.

Source: International Labour Organization (




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