DEV ELOP MENT re-imagined

OPEC Fund: What are the major challenges that developing countries (your partner / client countries, in particular) face when it comes to job creation? And how has COVID-19 impacted these challenges? Woochong Um: The three major challenges for job creation in the Asia and Pacific region are: creating adequate quality jobs; ensuring sufficient youth employment; and ensuring gender equality in labor markets. Although Asia and the Pacific region has

fared well in recent years in both growth and employment creation, the quality of jobs has been an issue. Having a job has not ensured a decent living. Nearly 350 million people in the region (or about 18 percent of the population) are in moderate or extreme working poverty. This is defined as the share of workers living in households with a daily per capita income or consumption of between US$1.90 and


US$3.20 and less than US$1.90 (in purchasing power parity terms, respectively). Moreover, the prevalence of labor underutilization of 10 percent, higher than the unemployment rate in the region, means that more than 200 million people could contribute additional hours of work or take a more active part in labor markets. Nearly a quarter of young people in the region are ‘Not in Employment, Education, or Training’ (NEET). Clearly, the region has to do better in creating more youth-friendly occupations and support with adequate career counseling and job matching services through real-time platforms.

Some countries in the region are rapidly aging, and the issues of staying in the workforce longer, and the need for re-skilling and job transition programs are quickly emerging. Although much progress has been made in integrating women into job markets, there

In keeping with our

special feature on job creation and transforming economies, Woochong Um, the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Director-General,

Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department, shares his experiences of how development drives progress – and how COVID-19 is impacting operations.

are persistent inequalities; on average, female labor force participation tends to be half that of males and the proportion of young girls in NEET is double that of boys. The region also needs to do far more to encourage the participation of women in high-value sectors and high- technology sectors. COVID-19 has exacerbated some of the

job market challenges, particularly adversely affecting people with informal and part-time jobs, and women. However, COVID-19 is also giving rise to innovative thinking on how labor markets can re-fashion to effectively cope with the pandemic and enable a bounce back. Strong investments in skills development are called for as are new initiatives to improve the coverage and impacts of social protection and employment support. With the economic shifts to new forms of employment, these last two areas become even more important.

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