17.03.2016

Workshop “Growth First, Social Justice Later? – Addressing Socio-Economic Inequalities in Asia

In this workshop, FES brought together partners and representatives from regional and international organisations, parliaments, trade unions, academic institutions, civil society organisations focusing on labour and social development issues.

  • Backdrop Image Workshop Sessions

Over the past decades, Asia has experienced remarkable economic growth. The region has been benefiting from the integration of global economic cycles, technological changes and innovations as well as being the extended “workbench” for the mass production of cheap goods. While in the past countries like Korea, Japan, Singapore, India and China were considered the sole economic powerhouses of the region, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Cambodia are catching up quickly.

These countries have shown impressive growth performances through stimulating foreign direct investment and focusing on labour intensive branches such as the textile and electronics industries. According to the latest OECD Development Centre’s Economic Outlook for Southeast Asia, China and India, real growth for large parts of Asia is projected to be robust over the medium term;

though the rates would be more moderate than in recent years. Yet, despite the tremendous efforts in reducing poverty the number of persons living in absolute poverty is declining only slowly in many parts of Asia. Economists reconfirmed at the World Economic Forum in January 2016 that excessive income inequality represents an obstacle to substantial economic growth. In Asia, growing disparities in income and wealth as well as unequal socio-economic opportunities suggest that the majority of the people still have limited access to the gains from the economic successes.

Unemployment, prevalence of informal employment and other forms of precarious work, insufficient implementation of labour and social standards, wages below subsistence level as well as inadequate social protection are rather common in the Asian region. The inequality trap disproportionately affects women and the most vulnerable members of society, including the poor, youth, persons with disabilities, the elderly as well as migrants.

The two-day workshop aims to:

  • Discuss ways to influence political agenda setting in support of socially just and sustainable developments in Asia;
  • Address how to create equal opportunities for all, in order to enable equal political, economic and social participation;
  • Debate how to promote labour standards, decent working conditions and migrant workers’ rights.

FES in Asia

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