Jobless growth in a region of rising trade

By ALFREDO G. ROSARIO, August 23, 2006 – It is ironic that while Asia-Pacific has nearly doubled its share in global trade in the past 15 years, the unemployment rate has increased in the region. “This worrisome trend of ‘jobless growth’ has profound implications for human development in Asia-Pacific because employment represents the main channel for the effects of trade on the nonincome aspects of poverty,” said the Asia-Pacific Human Development Report. Since 1990, the report added, some of the most trade-intensive countries, such as China and Singapore, have seen unemployment rates substantially increase. According to the report, young men and women, aged 15 to 24, were most affected by the rising unemployment. They constituted nearly half of the region’s total jobless population.

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The overseas employment program, fathered by the late statesman Blas F. Ople when he was secretary of labor, has deployed the bulk of land-based to the Middle East. The land-based workers, together with an estimated 200,000 Filipino seamen manning sea-going vessels, remit about US$10 million yearly. Their remittances have helped shore up the Philippine economy, especially during a financial crisis. Local employment is low in an economy suffering from poor foreign investments. Without the overseas employment program, the unemployment rate in the Philippines will have been worse. There is a strong campaign for foreign investments to fuel the business and industrial sectors to generate more jobs. Efforts are also being made to link the growth of trade with human development. (Read the rest of this article on

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