Countries throughout Asia are pursuing labor-intensive manufacturing strategies to boost economic growth and create jobs, raising critical questions:
JustJobs Network and International Development Research Centre facilitated conversations between Andrew North, former BBC correspondent for South Asia, and six Asian leaders to find answers to these questions.
1. Zaw Oo [Presidential advisor to Myanmar’s President Thein Sein] offers insights on the challenge of avoiding the “resource curse” in frontier markets. He noted that Myanmar is seeking to learn from the experience of other Asian economies by promoting investments in human capital alongside investment in natural resource industries.
2. Sabina Dewan [Executive Director, JustJobs Network] speaks on the importance of skill development in order to ensure greater productivity and higher wages. This can be achieved if countries diversify their manufacturing sectors by moving beyond low-value-added sectors like garments.
3. Martin Rama [Chief Economist for South Asia, World Bank] speaks on the emerging scenario for growth and jobs in South Asia, improving women’s participation in the workforce and vocational training that does not overlook the importance of basic education.
4. Rafaelita Aldaba [Assistant Secretary for Industry Development at the Department of Trade and Industry, Philippines] flags that in spite of early gains in the automotive and business process outsourcing sectors, jobless growth is still a concern in her country. The Philippines now sees investments in skills training as a way to make higher value-added products.
5. Anindya Chatterjee [Regional Director for Asia – International Development Research Centre] demarcates the role of civil society organizations in facilitating collaboration between stakeholders to solve the problem of low quality employment.
6. Selima Ahmad [Founder of the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry] suggests involving more Asian women in entrepreneurship and decision-making, cultural limitations notwithstanding. She remarks that women need to have ownership over their employment and that engaging women in the workforce will lead to better economic outcomes as well.