Labour market hit by underemployment, report says

Labour markets in the Pacific Island countries are characterised by underemployment, gender disparities in employment outcomes, and a large and growing share of young people not in education, employment or training. 

This is according to Director General Pacific Department Asian Development Bank, Xianbin Yao and Assistant Director-General and Regional Director Asia and the Pacific Region International Labour Organization, Tomoko Nishimoto.

They offer the view in the improving labour market outcomes in the Pacific report released in June. 

“Considering that formal sector job creation remains limited, the objective of creating decent and productive employment for all, as outlined by Sustainable Development Goal 8  (S.D.G.) - “to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all” poses a serious challenge to countries in the Pacific. 

“Furthermore, the global mega trends, such as climate change and technological innovation, add further complexities to the circumstances surrounding the Pacific Island countries.” 

The report indicates that back in 2012, the President of the Asian Development Bank and the Director-General of the International Labour Organization reiterated their pledge to strengthen their partnership to create decent work and address poverty, vulnerability, informality and gender disparities in Asia and the Pacific. 

“In light of the labour market challenges in the Pacific, the A.D.B. and the I.L.O. worked together to prepare labour market actions plans for three member countries – Fiji, Palau and Papua New Guinea – with a view to making policies more evidence-based, collaboratively determined and gender focused.

“This report is a synthesis of the analytical and research work that was carried out under this A.D.B.-funded project in the Pacific.

“This report shows how size and remoteness have hindered economic growth and limited positive labour market outcomes throughout the Pacific Island countries. 

“Development in the industrial sector has been uneven, but there are promising signs in the region’s growing tourism industry and niche agriculture and fishing sectors.” 

The report further says that a young and growing population is both an opportunity and a concern: Pacific Island countries stand to benefit from a demographic dividend, but labour markets are simply not producing enough jobs for all the young women and men entering the workforce each year. 

Furthermore the report takes an in-depth look at public employment services and proposes measures to target disadvantaged jobseekers and meet the needs of employers.

“Persistent labour market challenges have pushed Pacific islanders to migrate in high numbers.

“Enacting migration policies that lead to positive labour market outcomes requires a careful balance. 

“While migration can contribute to positive development in sending countries, there is also a real risk of skills shortages as educated workers leave. 

“The challenge in building good migration policy, then, is aiming for a ‘triple-win’ scenario that benefits the receiving country, the sending country and the migrants themselves.” 

The report also has guidelines to improve labour market outcomes in the Pacific.

“Several countries in the Pacific have expressed interest in building National Employment Policies aimed at achieving S.D.G.8 – we hope this publication contributes to this effort. “Lastly, we believe that this collaboration between the A.D.B. and the I.L.O. lays a solid foundation for further engagement between the two institutions,” says the report. 

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