Developing countries see swelling middle class

May 28, 2014 12:28 pm


Zara opened its South African store to target the country's increasingly diverse middle classes/AFP
Zara opened its South African store to target the country’s increasingly diverse middle classes/AFP
GENEVA, May 28 – Workers in developing countries are increasingly moving to better jobs and joining the middle class, but 839 million workers still earn less than $2.00 a day, the International Labour Organization said.

“The developing countries are generally in a process of catching up with the advanced economies,” ILO chief Guy Ryder told reporters in Geneva ahead of the release of the agency’s annual World of Work Report on Tuesday.

Between 1980 and 2011, per capita income in the developing countries like Senegal, Vietnam and Tunisia on average grew 3.3 percent each year, which is far faster than the 1.8 percent growth seen in advanced economies, the report said.

Today, more than four in 10 workers in the such countries are considered to be in the so-called “developing middle class” — meaning that they earn more than $4.00 a day — up from fewer than two in 10 two decades ago, it said.

Yet, more than half of all workers in the developing world — some 1.5 billion people — are in precarious positions, without contracts and social protections and often wallowing in poverty.

Around 839 million of them — a full third of all workers in such countries — earn less than $2.00 a day.

That however is down from more than half of all workers in such countries in the early 2000s, the report said.

– Improve worker rights, create growth –

In its analysis of the situation in 140 developing and emerging economies, the ILO concluded that nations that tackled working poverty, invested in creating quality jobs and in getting workers out of precarious employment had weathered the global financial crisis far better than those that did not.

“The investment in human capital is coming through in improved growth,” Ryder said, adding: “one needs to depart from any simplistic notion that development can be kick-started by reducing worker rights.”

Since the global financial crisis of 2007, the convergence between conditions in the developed and developing worlds has picked up speed.

Some 30.6 million more people have been added to the global ranks of the unemployed since the crisis began, leaving a total of 199.8 million people jobless last year, with the number set to swell to 213 million by 2019.

The global unemployment rate has stabilised at around six percent — a level expected to remain through 2017 — but advanced economies have suffered the biggest rise in jobless numbers.

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