The gap is growing between the number of working women and men in South Asia. Only 36 per cent of working women are actively engaged in the labour market, compared to 82.2 per cent of men. This is the second largest gender participation gap in the world, behind only the Middle East and North Africa, a latest report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Global Employment Trends has revealed.
In terms of the world situation, the number of people unemployed worldwide remained at an historic high in 2006 despite strong global economic growth, the report said.
What is also worrying, according to the report, is that those women in South Asia who are in the labour force are more likely to be unemployed than their male counterparts. That gap is widening as well.
Countries in South Asia include Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
In the past decade, female unemployment rates increased from 4.9 per cent to 6.2 per cent while male unemployment rates moved from 4.2 to 4.9 per cent in South Asian countries. The overall unemployment rate in the region rose from 4.4 per cent in 1996 to 5.2 percent in 2006.
The good news is that in terms of economic growth the South Asian region's overall GDP grew at a robust 7.9 per cent (although this is down from 8.2 per cent in 2005 and the rate is expected to fall again in 2007).
The problem lies in the fact that the growth rate is not creating enough employment to absorb the expanding labour force, which has increased by 2.1 per cent annually over the past. In fact, the crux of the problem is the growing labour force, which remains South Asia's main challenge, the report said.
The report points out that South Asian economies are different from the rest of Asia because they are less integrated into global markets. "They remain strongly dependent on agriculture and the sector still accounts for more than half of the total employment. By contrast, globally the services sector has overtaken agriculture for the first time, accounting for 40 per cent of total employment, while agriculture has fallen to 38.7 per cent. Industry accounted for 21.3 per cent,"’ the report said.
Worldwide, the 2006 unemployment rate is 6.3 per cent, a decrease of 0.1 per cent on 2005. Even though more people in the world are working than ever before the global number of people unemployed remains at an all time high, of 195.2 million.