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A Highly Unequal Crisis: Covid-19's Disproportionate Effects on Southeast Asia's Workers

Co-authors: Souleima El Achkar Hilal; Ian Nicole Generalao; and Rosa Mia Arao
This post draws from a paper presented in the ACAES session at the 2022 Allied Social Science Association Annual Meeting, program here. Youtube recording here.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on labor markets worldwide, Southeast Asia included. There is clear evidence that the pandemic-induced job losses in the region have been highly unequal—disproportionately affecting the youth, women, low-skilled, informal, temporary, and casual workers.

Using the latest available Labor Force Surveys of Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam, our analysis shows that youth and women bore the brunt of job losses. Young workers, who represent only 10–15% of the workforce in the four countries, accounted for a disproportionate share of job losses at 22–45% at the height of the pandemic’s impact on labor markets. This is due to their overrepresentation in heavily hit sectors like food and accommodation services, wholesale and retail trade, and “other services,” and because they were more likely to lose their jobs than more mature workers in these same sectors. Figure 1 gives details by sector.

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