The number of jobs in the Asia-Pacific region in 2022 was 2.0% higher than the pre-crisis level of 2019. However, the area will still be short 22 million jobs in 2022 – 1.1% fewer than it would have been if the pandemic had not occurred. The industries with the highest concentrations of workers often have the lowest labor productivity, earnings, and working conditions. Manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, agriculture, forestry, and fishing are the industries that hire the most people in the Asia-Pacific region.
Despite a modest recovery in the region’s labor markets following the impact of COVID-19, circumstances are still likely to be challenged well beyond 2023.
The number of jobs in the Asia-Pacific region in 2022 was 2.0% higher than the pre-crisis level of 2019, rebounding from the loss of almost 57 million jobs in 2020, according to the Asia-Pacific Employment and Social Outlook 2022: Rethinking sectoral policies for a human-centred future of work.
The recovery is still not fully realized. The region will still be short 22 million jobs in 2022, or 1.1% fewer jobs than it would have been if the pandemic had not occurred. Given the political barriers to growth in the world and the region, this number is expected to rise to 26 million (1.4% of the population) in 2023.
The area unemployment rate in 2022 was 5.2%, up 0.5 percentage points from 2019, although total working hours in the region remained below those of 2019.
By 2022, all subregions would have recovered from their 2020 job losses and outpaced 2019 employment growth. Nevertheless, employment growth lagged behind population growth. In the Pacific, the employment-to-population ratio in 2022 was higher than in 2019.
“Although employment trends in the Asia-Pacific region appear to be improving, several obstacles remain in the way of the region’s labor market returning to pre-crisis levels.” We can’t settle for a “quasi” recovery based on low-wage, informal jobs, says Ms. Chihoko Asada Miyakawa, Assistant Director-General of the International Labor Organization and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. Instead, we need to bring back growth that is inclusive and focused on people.
The analysis assesses regional sectoral estimates for the first time over a three-decade period (1991-2021) to identify which industries are creating more jobs, which are losing jobs, and which offer prospects for “good work.”
It demonstrates that even while IT and information services are the industry in the region with the fastest rate of employment development, just 9.4 million people were employed in the industry in 2021, or just 0.5% of all jobs.
In the Asia-Pacific region, on the other hand, the three industries that hire the most people are manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Together, these industries used 1.1 billion people in 2021, or 60% of the 1.9 billion people living in the region.
The industries with the highest concentrations of workers often have the lowest labor productivity, the lowest earnings, the worst working conditions, and the least amount of job and income security. Most people in these fields don’t have social security, and there is a lot of information. The pandemic effectively undid any progress made in recent decades.
Inequality between men and women is still rampant, with all but one of the top 10 industries with substantial employment growth favouring male employees. Only the hospitality and food service industries defied this pattern, where women held 55% of newly created jobs between 1991 and 2021.
“Even though the Asian economy has grown for the past 50 years, most people in Asia and the Pacific are still working in fields where the “Asian miracle” is no longer happening.” While current industries like IT may get most of the focus, much less glamorous fields have the most significant potential to spur growth and decent employment in the region. To achieve inclusion and decent work in all sectors, mainly where most people work, the challenge is to enhance and sustain policy attention and public investment, according to Sara Elder, ILO Senior Economist and report’s primary author.