Labor market trends in Asia: ILO

The impacts on the labor market in Asia varied between countries depending on the strictness of the containment measures and the different composition of production, exports and employment, indicated a report by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Despite disruptions in global supply chains and a decline in demand that affected the manufacturing sector, Asia strengthened its dominant position, with a growing share of world trade in 2020 and 2021.

However, the region has seen the largest decline in manufacturing as a share of total employment as a result of the pandemic.

Likewise, according to the ILO, the differential impacts of the pandemic in Asia and the Pacific have had a significant sectoral dimension, as in all regions.

In particular, the impact of the pandemic in Asia has varied significantly between subregions over the course of the different waves of Covid-19.

East Asia was the first affected subregion in 2020, but was generally able to control the disease. South Asia and Southeast Asia were hit hard by the Delta wave of the virus, in the second and third quarters of 2021, respectively.

Other highly affected sectors, impacted by mobility restrictions and the drop in international tourism, are accommodation and food services, and wholesale and retail trade.

The impact on those two sectors and the implications for the future of work in the region are discussed in more detail in the thematic section below.

Labor market

In Asia and the Pacific as a whole, total working time in 2020 was reduced by the equivalent of more than 130 million full-time equivalent jobs.

Estimates and projections of working hours, employment, unemployment and labor force, regional and subregional, Asia and the Pacific, 2019–23

The pandemic is estimated to have pushed more than 2 million workers below the extreme poverty line in Asia and the Pacific in 2020, and another 1.6 million to fall below the moderate poverty line, reversing some of the gains made. in reducing poverty in recent decades.

However, the working poverty figures underestimate the impact of the crisis on poverty, since they do not take into account low-income people who have been thrown out of work due to the pandemic.

Among the groups most vulnerable to the pandemic in this region are informal workers, who account for a large proportion of employment in some of the hardest-hit sectors, and migrant workers.


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