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UN report says education and social safety nets are crucial for Asia to get rich and cope with aging

TOKYO (AP) — As economies in Asia and the Pacific slow and age, countries must do more to ensure workers get the education, training and social safety nets needed to boost incomes and social equality guarantee, a United Nations report said on Tuesday. .

The International Labor Organization report said productivity growth has slowed, hurting incomes and undermining the purchasing power of the region’s two billion workers. By improving productivity, governments can increase incomes and better prepare for an aging workforce, the report said.

Two in three workers in the region in 2023 were in informal work, such as day labor, and lacked the kind of protection that formal jobs bring.

“The lack of employment opportunities that meet decent work criteria, including good incomes, not only endangers social justice in the region but also poses a risk factor to labor market prospects,” the report said.

What shows the potential for improvement is that labor productivity has grown by an average of 4.3% per year over the period 2004-2021, increasing income per worker in terms of purchasing power parity, using the standard of living in different countries with a common currency , has risen to $15,700. from $7,700. But growth has slowed over the past decade, the report said, hampering progress toward greater prosperity.

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Several challenges were highlighted, especially unemployment among young people not in school, which at 13.7% is more than three times higher than among adults.

The increasing use of artificial intelligence and other automation technology will result in some people losing their jobs, while women involved in administrative and information technology work are most likely to be affected as companies reduce their reliance on offshore call centers that have delivered good quality. jobs in countries such as the Philippines and India.

Other factors, such as trade conflicts and political unrest, threaten to disrupt employment in some industries, but aging poses an even greater challenge as countries grow old before they become prosperous.

According to the ILO report, the ratio of the number of people in Asia over 65 to the number of 15-64 year olds is expected to double by 2050 from around 15% in 2023 to almost a third.

In places like Japan, short-handed employers have stepped up to ease workloads by using robots and automated ordering in restaurants, shortening operating hours and installing self-checkouts.

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The report notes that a key reason why some countries face labor shortages, despite having large numbers of unemployed or underemployed workers, is a mismatch between jobs, skills and training.

“The region still has enormous potential for upskilling, productivity improvements and efficiency gains, which could alleviate demographic pressure on the labor market,” the report said.

The report notes that more than a third of workers in the region have an education level that is too low for their occupation, compared to 18% of workers in high-income countries.

Among other findings:

People in Asia and the Pacific still work longer hours than workers in other regions, an average of 44 hours per week, although that is down from more than 47 hours in 2005.

In 2023, nearly 73 million workers in the region lived in extreme poverty, with a daily income of less than $2.15 at purchasing power parity per person.

Despite the increase in the retirement age, the overall labor force participation rate in the Asia-Pacific region has fallen from 67% in 1991 to around 61% in 2023. It is expected to fall to 55% by 2050.

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The need for workers to provide long-term care in the region is expected to more than double from 46 million in 2023 to 90 million in 2050. That would increase the share of people working in the field from 2.3% to 4.3% of the total. now.

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