The weak global economic recovery failed to translate into an improvement in labour markets last year, and as global unemployment worsened the largest increases came in East and South Asia, according to the International Labour Organisation.
The ILO in its latest report also expressed concern about the quality of employment in Asia-Pacific, particularly the persistence of widespread informal employment and working poverty, and the significant challenges in finding decent work faced by young people and, in some countries, women.
The annual report, "Global Employment Trends 2014", found that between 2012 and 2013 global unemployment increased by almost five million to 202 million, and more than 45 per cent of these additional job-seekers were in East and South Asia.
What’s more, more than half of Asia-Pacific workers are in the informal sector with little or no access to employment, health or social security. That’s a higher proportion than any other global region except Latin American and the Caribbean.
The global economic recovery means profits are being made in many industries, but these are mainly going into asset markets and not into the real economy, damaging long-term employment markets. With current trends, an additional 200 million jobs will be created by 2018, but this will not be enough to absorb the growing number of labour market entrants.
"What is urgently needed is a policy re-think," ILO director-general Guy Ryder said yesterday.
"Stronger efforts are needed to accelerate employment creation and to support enterprises that create jobs," he said.
Ekkehard Ernst, head of the Employment Trends Unit at the ILO Research Department and the main author of the report, said it is imperative that active labour market policies be implemented more forcefully to address inactivity and skills mismatch.
In East Asia it’s clear the global recession is still affecting job-seekers. Since 2007 unemployment in the subregion has increased by eight million, to almost 40 million, and the region now accounts for almost one in five of the world’s unemployed.
Among young people unemployment has worsened considerably, rising to more than 10 per cent with projections that it will continue to increase until 2018. By contrast the subregion has seen remarkable social development in the last two decades.
While there are still almost 380 million own-account and contributing family workers, hundreds of millions of workers have moved into formal, salaried employment and working poverty is shrinking rapidly – since 1991 almost 465 million workers have moved out of poverty.
East Asia groups China, Hong Kong, South Korea, North Korea, Macao, Mongolia and Taiwan, while South Asia covers Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and Southeast Asia, consist of Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Pacific islands covered are Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.