Let’s roll the drums, shall we? Did we hear you say why? Hey, even this year, the Labour Day passed off with astounding progress to write home about, didn’t it? Well, wasn’t that what most of the governments of developed nations said? Wasn’t that the reason why we brought out those belly dancers (read, sycophantic economists) for supporting our tub-thumping gangs of politicians and bureaucrats? Like we mentioned in the heading above, we reserved just one response for all this... “Geez!”
Much like the ceremonial gestures attached to the sickle and hammer clad red flag, the internationally acclaimed date for ameliorating the plight of workers has been reduced to simply a public relations exercise. In global terms, the concerns for honourable working conditions for a common worker have dwindled at a dramatic pace. In fact, the new paradigm based on ‘efficiency based market forces’ has meant that wages, employment and the economic independence of the marginalised section of the society have been relegated to mere statistics.
Let’s see the dismal current scenario, one geography at a time. International Labour Organisation (ILO) notes that economic development (that is, its leftover) has simply been inefficient in reducing the ever-increasing number of unemployed in Africa. The unemployment rate in the ‘dark continent’ stood at a staggering 10.3% in 2006. It has been estimated that though the percentage of population surviving below $2 a day would come down marginally from 78.6% to 76.4% between 2006-15, the number of unemployed would register a sickening increase from 260 million to 316 million. Comparatively, in Latin America, in 2006, the unemployment rate was again at 8%, which translated into almost 33% of the Latin American population sustaining below $2 a day.
The situation improves marginally in East Asia with the number of people surviving below $2 a day being about 347 million. In South Asia, despite the labour force growing annually at 2.1% , employment during 2005-06 increased only marginally by 11.7 million. South Asian employment has not grown to keep pace with the working age population. The employment-to-population ratio for the South Asian region went down from 58.4% to 56.5% from 1996 to 2006. Worse, the 5.2% unemployment rate for the region has meant that employment creation has simply been insufficient. The case is much worse for women, where around 55% of women in the working age category were looking for work in 2006. All these have ensured that in this region, the population surviving below $2 a day, has now climbed to a staggering 87.2%.
Globally, people surviving below $2 a day stood at a sickening 1.37 billion in 2006, the majority being in India (almost 800 million). A cause for celebrations? Remember the word we used...