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Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2009
 
17. Employment

The Asia-Pacific economies employ around two thirds of the world’s workforce, though over the past two decades that proportion has been falling.

In 2008, China with 752 million workers, India with 452 million, and Indonesia with 103 million, accounted for 43.4% of world employment, and 68% of employment in the Asia-Pacific region. Among the subregions, the shares of East and North-East Asia and North and Central Asia of the region’s total employment are declining, while that of South and South-West Asia and South-East Asia are increasing in line with their growth in population and their rates of labour force participation.

While employment has been increasing, the growth has slowed. From the high rates registered in 2006, average annual growth in employment fell in 2008. Compared to the 2% growth in the two previous years, world employment in 2008 grew by only 1.4%. Of the world regions, Africa registered the highest growth in employment in 2008 (2.9%) – a slight decline from the average growth of 3.0% since 2000. The Asia-Pacific region experienced its slowest growth in employment since 1991, with a drop from 1.9% in 2007 to 1.3% in 2008, and continued to grow at a rate slower than the world average.

Figure 17.1 - Share of world employment: 2008

Among the Asia-Pacific subregions, employment in 2008 grew more rapidly only in South and South-West Asia, where all countries except Pakistan and Sri Lanka had higher growth rates than in 2007. In Sri Lanka, employment growth decelerated rapidly – from 3.2% in 2006 to 1.8% in 2008. North and Central Asia suffered a reversal. After recording the highest growth in employment in 2007, of 3.4%, the subregion registered a negative growth of -0.2% in 2008 – with all the countries experiencing slowdowns.

Figure 17.2 - Asian economies with declining employment growth between 2007 and 2008

In South-East Asia, employment growth was slower for all countries except for Brunei Darussalam, Viet Nam and Singapore. The Philippines, with a 4.1 percentage point decline from 2007 to 2008, changed from being the subregion’s fastest-growing labour market to one of its slowest. In East and North-East Asia, employment growth has been declining since 2000. In 2008 its growth of only 0.4% reflected slower growth in Mongolia and China.

Labour productivity

Annual labour productivity decelerated in 2008 in all global regions. Of these, Asia and the Pacific still had the fastest growth – despite seeing its growth rate fall from 5.7% in 2007 to 3.1% in 2008. Among the Asia-Pacific subregions, labour productivity growth slowed in almost all in 2008; the exception was North and Central Asia where between 2007 and 2008 its growth rate increased from 5.3 to 5.8%. In South-East Asia, productivity growth has been slower than in other subregions, having decelerated in all countries from the high rates attained in the early 2000s.

In North and Central Asia, eight of the nine countries belonged to the 10 countries in Asia with the highest rates of productivity growth. In this subregion, productivity growth in Kazakhstan decelerated to a standstill in 2008. The high-income economies of Australia, Japan, Turkey, New Zealand and Singapore all had negative productivity growth.

Figure 17.3 - Growth rates in labour productivity, Asia and the Pacific, 2000-2005 and 2008

Employment by sector

Agriculture remains a major employer, though its significance is declining. In 2008, it employed 56% of the workforce in Africa, and 40% of that in Asia and the Pacific. Elsewhere, most employment is generated by the services sector: in North America, 8.1%; in Europe, 65.7%; and in Latin America and the Caribbean, 62.6%.

In the Asian and Pacific subregions, the declining share of agricultural employment has been mainly taken up by the services sector, with at least a 30% share for all subregions. This is particularly true for North and Central Asia where employment in agricultural has historically been much lower than that in services; in 2008, services accounted for 57% of total employment.

Industry remains the smallest employer. Since 2000, the share of employment in the industrial sector for the Asia-Pacific region as a whole has been rising but in 2008 it still accounted for less than a quarter of total employment.

Estimates of total employment are based on counts of persons in the “working age” population, which for international comparisons is defined as persons aged 15 years old and above who were economically active during a brief reference period. Worldwide, the proportion of the working age population who are employed – the employment-topopulation ratio – has hovered around 61% over the last 18 years. Throughout that period, the Asia- Pacific region had the highest proportion, although between 1991 and 2008, it fell from 65.5 to 62.3%.

Figure 17.4 - Employment-to-population ratio, 1991-2008

In East and North-East Asia and South-East Asian in 2008, around two thirds of the working age population were employed. In North and Central Asia, and South and South-West Asia, the proportion has historically been lower – and in 2008 was 57.1% and 55.5% respectively.

Women of working age are less likely to be employed than men. This is especially so in South and South-West Asia. In 2008, while 77% of men of working age were employed, for women the proportion was only 32.9% – and this was a drop from 33.5% in 1991. In 2008 this subregion had eight of the ten countries with the lowest proportions of women employed – 44% or less. In contrast, for the same eight countries, at least 70% of working age men were employed – or 1.5 times higher than the figure for women.

Figure 17.5 - Employment-to-population ratio, 1991 and 2008

A number of countries have seen falls in the proportion of women employed. Although women in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cambodia, Myanmar, Viet Nam, Thailand and China had at least a 60% chance of being employed in 2008, these chances are lower than they were in 1991. This drop is most pronounced in Afghanistan where the proportion of working-age women who are employed has historically been low.

Figure 17.6 - Female employment-to-population ratio, 2008

Figure 17.7 - Countries where women's employment-to-population ratio declined between 1991 and 2008

Vulnerable employment

Most employed persons in the Asia-Pacific region, as in Africa, are own-account or contributing family workers. These workers are often in “vulnerable employment” – generating low incomes and having no social protection. In other regions of the world, on the other hand, the bulk of employed persons are employees.

In Asia and the Pacific, employment status differs between subregions. In South and South-West Asia in 2008, over 70% of workers were in vulnerable employment while in North and Central Asia 82% were employees. High-income countries generally have only a small proportion of worker in vulnerable employment.

Figure 17.8 - Status in employment, 2008

Figure 17.9 - Proportion of workers in vulnerable employment, 2008

Unemployment

Since 62.3% of the working age population in Asia and the Pacific were working in 2008, the remaining 37.7% were either unemployed or not economically active. The Asia-Pacific unemployment rate has been lower than the world average and since 1991 has been stable at around 5.0% – largely because the bulk of the workforce is absorbed by own-account work in the informal sector and in subsistence farming.

Figure 17.10 - Unemployment rate, 1991-2008

Among all Asian subregions, unemployment has been highest in North and Central Asia, where most workers are in paid employment. The unemployment rate has fluctuated along with the economic downturns in the last two decades. The decreasing trend since 2000 was halted by an upturn in 2008. In South-East Asia, by contrast, unemployment increased between 2000 and 2005, but started to decline thereafter.

The gender pattern varies between subregions. Women were more likely to be unemployed than men in South and South-West Asia and in South-East Asian, while the opposite was true in the other subregions. Among individual countries, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Indonesia, female unemployment rates exceed those for males.

Figure 17.11 - Unemployment rate by sex, 2008

Unemployment is usually higher for younger people. Worldwide, and in the Asia-Pacific region, the unemployment rate for the 15-24 age group is twice as high as for the workforce as a whole, and it has been increasing over the last 18 years. However, in this age group there are only small gender differences – and even these have been diminishing.

Figure 17.12 - Youth unemployment rates, Asia-Pacific sub-regions, 1991-2008

In North and Central Asia and in East and North-East Asia, youth unemployment rates have declined since the late 1990s though between 2007 and 2008 they rose. After rising from 1996 to 2005, youth unemployment in South-East Asia started to decline, but registered an upturn in 2008.

Total employment (thousand people)

The number of persons of working age who, during a specified brief period, either one week or one day, were in either paid employment or self-employment. Aggregates: Calculated by ILO Employment Sector Department Source: International Labour Organization, Key Indicators of the Labour Market, Sixth Edition. Online database accessed on 14 September 2009.

Average annual employment growth rate (% per annum)

The average annual rate of change of total employment. Aggregates: Calculated by ILO Employment Sector Department. Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from International Labour Organization, Key Indicators of the Labour Market, Sixth Edition. Online database accessed on 14 September 2009.

Average annual labour productivity growth rate (% per annum)

The output (measured as value added in 1990 PPP dollars) divided by the total number of employed persons, express as the average annual rate of change. Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from International Labour Organization, Key Indicators of the Labour Market Sixth Edition. Online database accessed on 17 September 2009.

Employment by sector: agriculture, industry, and services (% of total employment)

The proportion of employment in: (1) agriculture: agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing; (2) industry: construction, mining, manufacturing and utilities; and (3) services: transport, storage and communication; wholesale, retail, restaurant, hotels and other activities, expressed as a share of total employment. Aggregates: Calculated by ILO Employment Sector Department Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from International Labour Organization, Key Indicators of the Labour Market Sixth Edition. Online database accessed on 14 September 2009.

Employment to population ratio: both sexes, women, men (% of population aged 15 and above)

The proportion of the working-age population that is employed of the working-age population. For most countries, the working-age population is defined as persons aged 15 and above, although this may vary slightly from country to country. Aggregates: Calculated by ILO Employment Sector Department. Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from International Labour Organization, Key Indicators of the Labour Market, Sixth Edition and World population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 14 September 2009 and May 2009.

Unemployment rate: total, women, men (% of labour force)

The number of persons of working age who, during the reference period, were without work, currently available for work and seeking work, divided by the total labour force. National definitions and coverage of unemployment may vary. Data are presented disaggregated by sex. Aggregates: Calculated by ILO Employment Sector Department Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from International Labour Organization, Key Indicators of the Labour Market Sixth Edition. Online database accessed on 14 September 2009.

Youth unemployment rate: total, female (% of labour force aged 15-24)

The number of young persons aged 15-24 who are without work, currently available for work and seeking work, divided by the total labour force of that age group. Data are presented disaggregated by sex. Aggregates: Calculated by ILO Employment Sector Department. Source: United Nations Millennium Development Goals Indicators. Online database accessed on 27 July 2009.

Employment by status: employees (% of total employment)

Employees are all those workers who hold the type of job defined as "paid employment jobs". Paid employment jobs are those jobs where the incumbents hold explicit (written or oral) or implicit employment contracts which give them a basic remuneration which is not directly dependent upon the revenue of the unit for which they work (this unit can be a corporation, a non-profit institution, a government unit or a household). Some or all of the tools, capital equipment, information systems and/or premises used by the incumbents may be owned by others, and the incumbents may work under direct supervision of, or according to strict guidelines set by the owner(s) or persons in the owners' employment. (Persons in "paid employment jobs" are typically remunerated by wages and salaries, but, may be paid by commission from sales, by piece-rates, bonuses or in-kind payments such as food, housing or training.).The number of employees divided by the total employment by status, expressed as a percentage. Aggregates: Calculated by ILO Employment Sector Department. Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from International Labour Organization, Key Indicators of the Labour Market Sixth Edition. Online database accessed on 14 September 2009.

Employment by status: employers (% of total employment)

Employers are those workers who, working on their own account or with one or a few partners, hold the type of job defined as a "self-employment job", and, in this capacity, on a continuous basis (including the reference period) have engaged one or more persons to work for them in their business as "employee(s)". Self-employment jobs are those jobs where the remuneration is directly dependent upon the profits (or the potential for profits) derived from the goods and services produced (where own consumption is considered to be part of profits). The incumbents make the operational decisions affecting the enterprise, or delegate such decisions while retaining responsibility for the welfare of the enterprise. (In this context "enterprise" includes one-person operations. The number of employers divided by the total employment by status, expressed as a percentage. Aggregates: Calculated by ILO Employment Sector Department. Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from International Labour Organization, Key Indicators of the Labour Market Sixth Edition. Online database accessed on 14 September 2009.

Employment by status: other self-employed (% of total employment)

The number of own-account workers, members of producer's cooperatives, and contributing family workers divided by the total employment by status, expressed as a percentage. Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from International Labour Organization, Key Indicators of the Labour Market Sixth Edition. Online database accessed on 14 September 2009.

 
 
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Table 17.1 Employment and labour productivity

Table 17.2 Employment by sector
Table 17.3 Employment to population ratio
Table 17.4 Unemployment rate
Table 17.5 Youth unemployment rate
Table 17.6 Employment by status
Figures gif format
Figure 17.1 - Share of world employment: 2008
Figure 17.1 - Share of world employment: 2008
Figure 17.2 - Asian economies with declining employment growth between 2007 and 2008
Figure 17.2 - Asian economies with declining employment growth between 2007 and 2008
Figure 17.3 - Growth rates in labour productivity, Asia and the Pacific, 2000-2005 and 2008
Figure 17.3 - Growth rates in labour productivity, Asia and the Pacific, 2000-2005 and 2008
Figure 17.4 - Employment-to-population ratio, 1991-2008
Figure 17.4 - Employment-to-population ratio, 1991-2008
Figure 17.5 - Employment-to-population ratio, 1991 and 2008
Figure 17.5 - Employment-to-population ratio, 1991 and 2008
Figure 17.6 - Female employment-to-population ratio, 2008
Figure 17.6 - Female employment-to-population ratio, 2008
Figure 17.7 - Countries where women's employment-to-population ratio declined between 1991 and 2008
Figure 17.7 - Countries where women's employment-to-population ratio declined between 1991 and 2008
Figure 17.8 - Status in employment, 2008
Figure 17.8 - Status in employment, 2008
Figure 17.9 - Proportion of workers in vulnerable employment, 2008
Figure 17.9 - Proportion of workers in vulnerable employment, 2008
Figure 17.10 - Unemployment rate, 1991-2008
Figure 17.10 - Unemployment rate, 1991-2008
Figure 17.11 - Unemployment rate by sex, 2008
Figure 17.11 - Unemployment rate by sex, 2008
Figure 17.12 - Youth unemployment rates, Asia-Pacific sub-regions, 1991-2008
Figure 17.12 - Youth unemployment rates, Asia-Pacific sub-regions, 1991-2008
Definitions