ILO: Labor productivity stagnant in Southeast Asia

MANILA (AP): Productivity in Southeast Asia has been nearly stagnant over the last decade, with workers producing only a seventh of the wealth compared to their counterparts in developed economies, a U.N. agency said Monday.

Productivity in Southeast Asia and the Pacific rose at an annual average of only 1.6 percent between 1996 and 2006, compared with East Asia, where workers now produce twice as much as they did 10 years ago - the fastest rise anywhere in the world, theInternational Labor Organization said.

Each worker in the region produced US$9,419 in 2006, or 3.5 percent more than in 2005, but just slightly higher than US$8,068 produced 10 years ago, said the ILO's report, "Key Indicators of the Labor Market."

Unemployment is higher than before the Asian economic crisis of 1997, the ILO said, stressing the importance to find the right balance between productivity and employment rise.

In East Asia, each worker produced US$12,591 of wealth in 2006, from US$6,347 in 1996.

"Development in Southeast Asia and the Pacific has been less impressive than East Asia, " the report said. "Nevertheless, the region has profited from the economic boom in China and India and the good economic performance of most developed economies in recent years."

In South Asia, productivity was eight times less than in rich countries, according to the report. The good news is there are less poor Asian workers.

"The Asian regions saw a substantial reduction in the number of working women and men living on less than US$1 a day," the report said, adding the number of working poor decreased by as many as 148 million between 1996 and 2006, representing a drop of nearly 50 percent.

In contrast, sub-Saharan Africa's weak economic performance resulted in an increase of 24 million in the number of working poor. The productivity figure is found by dividing the country's gross domestic product by the number of people employed. The U.N. report is based on 2006 figures for many countries, or the most recent available.

The study included eight of 11 Southeast Asian countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore Thailand and Vietnam. East Asia includes China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan.

South Asia encompasses Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. (**)
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