ILO warns rising unemployment to push millions into poverty

February 18th, 2009 - 3:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Manila, Feb 18 (DPA) More than 140 million people in Asia could be pushed into extreme poverty in 2009 as unemployment surges due to the global economic slowdown, an International Labour Organization (ILO) report warned Wednesday.
According to the report, The Fallout in Asia, the number of unemployed in the Asia-Pacific region could rise by as many as 23.3 million in 2009 while vulnerable employment could grow by an alarming 60 million.

“A dramatic increase in extreme working poverty of more than 140 million by 2009 is projected under this scenario, representing a regression of the Asia and the Pacific region to the working poverty rate of 2004,” the report said.

“These projections are not just numbers - they carry with them a real risk that children may be forced to withdraw from school in order to work and support their families,” it added.

Increasing layoffs and inadequate social protection could also result in more workers taking on “precarious and hazardous employment” just to be able to support their families, it said.

Under these difficult circumstances, the ILO stressed the need for governments to take steps to ensure that labour rights are protected and social progress is not undermined.

“The crisis cannot be taken as an excuse for the erosion of the fundamental rights at work, namely freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of all forms of compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation,” it said.

The report also noted that stimulus packages being implemented by governments in the region would be helpful, with their impact maximised if the emergency measures would create jobs for a broad range of workers and boost their spending power.

“Promoting employment and supporting household purchasing power is critical for any stimulus package, as these will drive domestic consumption which is needed to immediately bolster growth,” it said.

The report added that “stimulus geared toward infrastructure projects provides a direct way to generate employment, while also laying the future foundation of growth”.

“Ensuring that the composition of the jobs created is spread across different categories of workers, including women workers, will also help to guarantee that the stimulus packages carry the maximum social benefit,” it said.

The ILO also stressed the need for governments to invest in schools, free education, hospitals and affordable health care to help mitigate the impact of the crisis.

The report said the economic slowdown could be an opportunity for governments and corporations to invest in “a more environmentally sustainable recovery that can facilitate job creation and long-term competitiveness”.

“Up-front investments in environmentally friendly areas can provide an immediate boost to jobs, along with long-term cost savings for firms and economies together with the associated benefits to productivity and economic growth,” it said.

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