Conditions Favorable for Worker-Friendly Trade Reforms
Singapore, 21 November 2017
Solid growth projections across APEC member economies will create space to advance trade and labor policy reforms needed to address potentially disruptive transition challenges for workers, according to a new report from the APEC Policy Support Unit.
The APEC region, which accounts for over half of global trade and about 60 per cent of global GDP, will outpace the rest of the world at 3.9 per cent growth for 2017 and maintain a steady pace at 3.8 per cent growth in 2018, the latest APEC Regional Trends Analysis forecasts.
It calls these prime conditions for the introduction of improved trade adjustment and social protection schemes to help work forces cope with economic and technological growing pains and structurally ensure the momentum of the region’s economy.
“The economic outlook in APEC is encouraging but there is much work to do to fight rising inequality that contributes to anti-globalization sentiments in some areas. More people need to feel the benefits of trade-driven growth to sustain economies over the long haul,” explained Dr Denis Hew, Director of the APEC Policy Support Unit.
“With economies finding their footing, there is a real opportunity for policymakers to confront the effects of market competition and technological change in ways that could make a lasting difference for employment and income prospects in the region.”
The report underscores the importance of deepening cooperation in APEC to narrow education and skills mismatches between labor and employers, open new economic opportunities and raise productivity in the digital era.
It also points to the value regional partnership can bring in supporting workers marginalized by globalization, including those hurt by shuttered industries and job losses—a realm that has been largely limited to domestic policy development in the past.
“The impact of automation and cost competitiveness on jobs and wages has been more pronounced in the developed world and will increasingly be felt in developing areas too as their income and innovation levels continue to rise,” said Emmanuel San Andres, an Analyst with the APEC Policy Support Unit Analyst and the report’s lead researcher.
“Ultimately economies in the APEC region are facing many of the same labor market pressures and the threat they pose to an inclusive recovery. This is a chance for APEC member economies to learn from one another how to optimize trade and growth outcomes at home in this age of disruption,” San Andres continued.
The report recommends greater focus in APEC on the design and implementation of measures such as worker training and re-training, apprenticeship programs, job counselling and social safety nets. It also advocates increased information-sharing on labor trends to help APEC economies refine their policy solutions.
APEC Senior Officials will meet in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on 5-6 December to decide how to take this process forward as they flesh out the region’s priorities for policy collaboration in 2018.
See this APEC infographic on the region’s upward growth trajectory and labor inclusion needs.
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