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A street vendor sells beverages to motorists during rush hours traffic in Jakarta, Indonesia June 14, 2017.   © Reuters

Informal jobs sector both a blessing and curse in Southeast Asia

Unemployment rates low but income growth slowing

| Vietnam
  • The informal jobs sector has cushioned the impact of an economic slowdown in Southeast Asia over the past five years.
  • Malaysians are most concerned about their jobs and salary prospects as unemployment rises, particularly among the young.
  • Positive export performance across the Asean-5 suggests overall job market improvement is close.

Street vendors selling food, clothes and trinkets. Rice field workers who are paid daily, with no job security. Nannies taking care of children whose blue-collar parents work in factories. These are the people without whom Southeast Asian economies would grind to a halt.

Such informal sector employment has helped prevent economic and political turmoil in Asean nations after five years of slowing GDP growth. Indonesia, the largest Asean economy with a workforce of 132m, managed to reduce unemployment despite a decline in annual GDP growth (see chart).

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