01/29/2009, 00.00
ASIA
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Worldwide job losses could reach 51 million in 2009

The International Labour Organisation warns the crisis will hit developing countries hard, especially in Asia, where public welfare programmes and unemployment subsidies are non-existent. Governments will have to take major action to stimulate the economy.
Geneva (AsiaNews/Agencies) – As many as 51 million jobs could be lost worldwide by the end of 2009 because of the global economic crisis, said the International Labour Organisation (ILO), driving the world's unemployment rate to 7.1 per cent, compared with 6.0 per cent last year.

According to the UN agency’s most optimistic forecast, at least 18 million more workers will be unemployed. More realistically, the ILO expects 30 million more people to lose their jobs.

Developing countries, especially in Asia, will suffer most from additional job losses because of their weak or non-existent safety net as well their governments’ inability to pump more liquidity into the domestic economies to help hard-hit sectors.

Unemployment, especially in southern Asia, could plunge millions of families back into poverty just a few years after they worked their way out of it.

Government works projects (road, bridge and other infrastructural construction) could help create and sustain jobs until the private sector starts to rebound.

At the end of 2008 though, unemployment was already high in the Middle East (9.4 per cent) and the former Soviet Union (8.8 per cent).

South Asia, South-East Asia, and East Asia, which accounted for more than half of new jobs (57 per cent) in 2008, had instead the lowest unemployment levels at 5.4, 5.7 and 3.8 per cent respectively. But any reversal could cause them major problems, including social unrest.

What is more worrisome is how quickly the situation has worsened. Last October the ILO had predicted 20 million jobs lost in 2009; now its forecast has more than doubled, leading many to think that things might even be worse.

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